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Full text of "Three brass balls [electronic resource]"

ROBERT W WDODRUFF 
LIBRARY 




THEEE 
BRASS BALLS. 



BY 

GEORGE R. SIMS, 

AUTHOR OF 
' THE SOCIAL KALEIDOSCOPE,'- " ZEPH," " THE DAGONET BALLADS,' 



{REPRINTED FROM TSE '• WEEKLY DISPATCH.") 



LONDON: 

Published by Thomas Vernon, Wine Office Court, 
Fleet Street, E.C. 



DEDICATION. 



These Pages are affectionately dedicated to 
MY UNCLE. 



PREFACE. 



The "Three Brass Balls" which occasionally 
figure at the side of a Pawnbroker's door have 
been selected as a title for these sketches, the 
" Three Gilt Balls," which hang higher up, having 
already done duty outside a cover. The writer's 
purpose has not been to attack the trade, which is, 
with few exceptions, honourably conducted, but to 
narrate the history of some of the customers. He 
takes this opportunity of acknowledging the kind- 
ness of an old-established and highly-esteemed 
pawnbroker, who placed much valuable information 
at his service. 



London, June, 1880. 



CONTENTS. 



Prologue ........ i 

A Gold Bracelet ...... 5 

A Flannel Petticoat , , . . . .13 

A Diamond Ring , 26 

A Suit of Black ........ 39 

A Gold Locket .„..,.. 54 

A Dress Suit . . 67 

A Wedding Ring 80 

A Diamond Necklace 93 

A Pair of Blankets ...... 105 

A Surplice . . . . . . . .118 

A Silver Watch . . , . , . 130 

A Pair of Boots 144 

A Flat Iron ..... 157 

A "Shakespeare" ... ... 169 

A Coral and Bells ... ... 183 

A Musical Box . 195 

A Pair of Earrings 207 

A Family Bible . 219 

Various 231 

A War Medal ....... 244 



THREE BRASS BALLS. 



PROLOGUE. 

Three Brass Balls ! They are in half relief on the big 
outside door-plate of the pawnbroker's shop. Three Brass 
Balls ! Their gilded brethren hang high above them — so 
high that only those who look up to the heavens can see 
them. They gleam in the bright summer sunshine ; they 
loom dimly through the winter fog, those " golden " balls, 
far up above the heads of the toiling multitude that surges 
from morn till night along the busy thoroughfare. Over 
the gates of Hades was the dread inscription, " Abandon 
hope all ye who enter here." Over the pawnbroker's shop 
door the pendant sign says mutely to eye and heart, 
" Abandon something all ye who enter here." Abandon 
something ! A prized trinket of happier days, a souvenir of 
the long ago, a keepsake, given, perhaps, by one who lies 
cold in the grave, the old familiar objects of home, the 
heirlooms kept sacredly for generations, the furniture of 
your house, the clothes from you back, the implements of 
your daily toil, the bed you lie on — it matters not what, — 
here all is fish that comes to the mighty net. 

Here, on the door-plate opposite your eyes, are the three 



PROLOGUE. 



brass balls bidding the harassed, the poor, the starving, and 
the reckless enter and abandon something in exchange for 
silver and gold — in exchange, perhaps, for the warmth that 
the numbed limbs need, for the food that the gnawing 
hunger craves. 

The golden symbols are too high above for all the storm- 
tossed wanderers who drift to this haven of grace to see. 
They come with trembling feet and blushing cheeks, maybe ; 
with eyes cast down to earth, not raised to the heavens 
above. They might not see the brave emblems that hang 
on high in all the glory of gold leaf and burnish. But their 
furtive glances are met by the three brass balls on the bold 
broad plate at the door, and they creep into the narrow 
dark boxes, where all is gloom, and where unseen they 
make the sacrifice. 

When the tempest howls, and the billows, rising like huge 
mountains, threaten to engulf the ship, her load is lightened. 
Over into the seething ocean the priceless cargo is flung 
bit by bit that she may ride through the gale. Fierce are 
the storms too often that rage around the human craft on the 
ocean of life. With trembling hands and tearful eyes little 
by little the cargo is parted with, that the vessel may keep 
upon its way and not be shattered by the threatening waves 
of want and misery. And when at last the frail human 
craft drifts into its last harbour it is too often but a bare 
oattered hulk. 

Here it is that the cargo is lightened ; here it is, under 
the shadow of the three brass balls, that one by one the 



PROLOGUE. 



prized objects of life are flung overboard, too often to drift 
away and be seen no more by those to whom they are most 
dear. 

To the reckless and the unthrifty this is but a depot — a 
place to De visited from time to time with a light heart when 
the week's money has gone in drink, or a day's outing calls for 
more cash in hand. The regular customers crowd at 
certain periods and sacrifice their household gods with no 
thought of sacrilege, intending to redeem them and sacrifice 
them again, and looking upon the proceeding as an ordinary 
transaction of everyday life. 

But there are those who creep here with breaking hearts 
and swimming eyes to offer up all that is dearest to them — 
to sacrifice, often with the holiest motive, their most 
cherished idols. With them too often the sacrifice is com- 
plete. There is no redemption. The idol is cast down for 
ever ; the storm will carry away far, far beyond their long- 
ing eyes the treasures that in their despair they trusted to 
the ocean. 

The Fates are three, the Furies are three, and the ancient 
symbols over the pawnbroker's door are three. 

Three Brass Balls ! Weird and woful are the stories 
they could tell of the ruined and broken-hearted, of the 
wanton and the reckless, the wicked and the cruel, that 
creep past them day by day into the gloom beyond. It is 
the voice they lack which now shall speak ; they are the 
stories hidden away in their brazen breasts which here shall 
be told. Poverty and crime, starvation and waste, virtue 



PROLOGUE. 



and vice, all the sorrows and all the sins have filed past 
those three brass balls to swell the catalogue of objects 
which lie garnered within. Cold and cruel in the sharp 
winter air the brazen emblems gleam like mocking demons 
at the gates of Purgatory ; and these are the secrets which 
they hide in their hollow hearts. 



Pledge I. 
A GOLD BRACELET 

There it lies among the unredeemed pledges, a beautiful 
gold bracelet. Hardly a tale of poverty or wretchedness 
about that, one would think. The poor don't have massive 
gold bracelets to pawn ; flatirons and flannel petticoats are 
more in their way. 

How did this bracelet come to be pawned and remain 
unredeemed ? Let us look at the ticket on it. " Mrs. 
Smith " — ah, a married lady. Amount advanced, £2. Why, 
the bracelet is honestly worth £5. How ever came Mrs. 
Smith to part with her beautiful bracelet for such an absurd 
sum ? 

Was she poor, this Mrs. Smith ? Had she come down in 
the world suddenly and been compelled to part with her 
jewellery to pay rent, or to buy her sick husband luxuries, 
or to bury her dead baby ? Perhaps. Married ladies with 
bracelets do sometimes drift into poverty and have sick 
husbands to feed and dead babies to bury when there is no 
money in the house ; and up stairs in a little drawer there 
lies still a treasured trinket, the last, perhaps, of many. 

This one she has struggled hard to keep. She prizes it, 
perhaps, for old associations, for the sake of the giver, for 
the sake of the dear old days when it clasped her pretty 
round arm, and life seemed only a happy dream, all loving 
words and pretty things. 

And now ! Poor Mrs. Smith, she had found out what life 



THREE BRASS BALLS. 



is. When she parted with this bracelet the loving words 
were seldom spoken, the light had died slowly out of the 
sky, the pretty things had gone one by one, and the grim 
spectre of want extended its greedy hands and claimed the 
last relic of the happy past. 

Stay. Let us examine the bracelet more closely. See, 
there is an inscription inside. That accounts to some 
extent for the smallness of the sum advanced. An in- 
scription depreciates the value. " From Frank to Milly, 
January ist, 18 — ." A lover's new year's gift evidently. 

Yes; this bracelet was a new year's gift, but we are 
wasting our sympathy over it. Rather, we are bestowing 
it on the person who least deserves it — the Mrs. Smith who 
put it down one March afternoon on the pawnbroker's 
counter and asked £2 upon it. Mrs. Smith was only a 
false name, the first name that came to the woman's lips. 

Hearts were broken over that band of gold, but not hers. 
It can claim its dead, but she wots not of that. A young 
life in its flower lies crushed between the clasp of the 
glittering toy, shame and humiliation hover about it, and its 
story is one of temptation, crime, and bitter atonement. 

But on the cold March afternoon when Mrs. Smith swung 
back the door, and passed under the shadow of the three 
brass balls, there was no romance about the transaction. 

She was only a charwoman. Her young mistress was 
hard up, and had handed the bracelet to her, and told 
her to get a couple of pounds on it, that was all. It 
wasn't the first time she had pawned things for her youn<* 
mistress, and probably it would not be the last. 

To tell the truth, her young mistress, Mrs. Gordon was 
just now under a cloud, and Mrs. Smith, the charwoman 
counting up the number of things she had lately deposited 



A GOLD BRACELET 



in safe keeping in return for a ticket and some ready cash, 
might be excused if she wondered how long it would 
last. 

Not very long, evidently, for Mrs. Gordon wanted lots of 
money, and Mr. Gordon was not only in queer street, but 
he never came near the street where Mrs. Gordon resided. 

" Poor Milly Gordon ! " said folks who knew just half her 
story. "What a fool to go and marry a scamp like that, 
just when she was making her mark at the music-halls and 
getting a good salary." 

He was a scamp, there was no mistake about that. He 
was supposed to be a diamond merchant when he carried 
Milly off from all his rivals, gave her his hand, heart, and 
name, and started housekeeping in street, Oxford- 
street, in first-class style. 

Three months afterwards everybody knew he was a rascal, 
a money-lender who never lent money, a bill discounter 
who took bills of foolish young men and discounted them. 
Yes, he certainly discounted them — but he kept the pro- 
ceeds for himself. 

It was a grand match for a young vocalist like Milly. His 
name was in the papers presently, and the whole story was 
out. Then he had to get out of the way for a while. He 
took all the jewellery he could, but Milly, who had learned 
a good deal in three months, had hidden half of it. 

When he was hiding, he wrote to her and told her she'd 
better go on at the music-hall again. Not a bad idea, and 
he would claim all her earnings. Milly's mamma was a 
very clever woman, and she advised her daughter to wait 
a bit till the land was a little clearer. She hinted that a 
divorce might be possible from circumstances which had 
come to her knowledge, and in the meanwhile Milly had 



THREE BRASS BALLS. 



better do with what she had left, and if she was short she 
must pawn some of her jewellery. 

It was not jewellery that Mr. Gordon had given her. He 
had secured all that long ago. No, the jewellery referred 
to was some that Milly had before her marriage, presents 
which used to be left at the hall, or sent to the little 
suburban house, where she lived with mamma. Lots of 
presents went to that little suburban house. Mamma re- 
ceived them all and took care of them. Mamma also 
watched carefully over her talented daughter, and saw that 
her young affections were not trifled with. 

Milly's mamma was reckoned rather a nuisance by the 
young gentlemen who were over head and ears in love with 
the pretty little songstress. It was such a dreadful blow 
to plan a nice little dinner and ask Milly, and then to re- 
ceive a pretty little scented note accepting the invitation 
thus : " Ma and myself will be So gladd to dine with you 
to-morrer at the time menshuned." 

Mamma always played gooseberry on those occasions. 
You see, she had set her mind on a good match. Her girl 
was not going to throw herself away and to get mixed up 
with a lot of young dandies who were all shirt-front and 
nothing much else to boast of. Money! Money! Money! 
That was mamma's idea. "Take all they like to give you, 
Milly," washer advice; "but don't encourage them my 
dear." 

And Milly did not— except in one instance, and then 
there was no harm. He was such a pure-minded, innocent 
boy. He blushed when Milly spoke to him, he called her 
mother Madam, and he loved the girl with a love as pure 
and innocent as ever God planted in the breast of guileless 
youth. 



A GOLD BRACELET 



Milly encouraged him, and mamma allowed her to. There 
was no harm likely to come of it — to Milly. As to the boy 
— well, that was his look out. 

He didn't give grand dinners. He came to tea at the 
little suburban house. They didn't know quite how the 
acquaintance sprang up. He had been to the hall and seen 
Milly, and somehow had been introduced to her. He called 
and left flowers and fruit, and one day mamma asked him 
to tea. 

Poor, merry, innocent Frank Ayrton ! I can see your 
frank blue eyes and comely laughing face, beaming with 
happiness and love. I remember the night when you were 
pointed out to me at the chairman's table as "hard hit" by 
the lively Milly, and how I watched you, and, knowing what 
I knew, pitied you from the bottom of my heart. 

Four years have gone by since that night. You are ex- 
piating in a far-off land the result of your blind infatuation 

for a heartless girl, and she Rain-soaked and tattered 

on the hoarding visible from my study window hangs a huge 
poster, and on it in capital letters I see the name of your 
old sweetheart, who is charming the golden youth of the 
music-halls with her silvery voice. You disappeared from 
the scene, Frank Ayrton, long before Mr. Gordon came. 
You had fluttered, poor moth, about the candle long enough. 
Your wings were scorched, and you had fallen to fly no 
more. 

Ah, glittering gold bracelet, how meekly you lie in your 
velvet case, among the wreck and ruin of so many lives and 
homes — unredeemed pledges. Aye, unredeemed pledges 
of youth and manhood, of hope and love ; unredeemed 
pledges of all that was so bright and fair once, and now is 
dark and desolate as the gloomy place wherein you lie. 



io THREE BRASS BALLS. 

Many a hand has touched you, O glittering toy, since the 
day that Frank Ayrton bought you in the jeweller's shop in 
Bond-street, and bore you joyously to the little suburban 
house, and, blushing and trembling, clasped you on a white 
and slender wrist, murmuring, "Wear this, Milly, for my 
sake." 

She took his present. She kissed him. And the lad's 
heart leapt for joy. 

One present bought a kiss ! From that moment the road 
of ruin lay before him. Blind, mad, he rushed along it. 
Love swept away all barriers. His own slender stock of 
money went in the wild race for bliss. He was but a 
City clerk, the hope and star of a widowed mother, the 
light of a humble little home, where brothers and sisters all 
toiled for the common weal. 

All was neglected now. Business, mother, friends — one 
only claimed him — Milly. 

The end came swiftly. The tale was told one evening 
when Milly was bidden to come to the manager's room. 
There was a man there whom she knew by sight — a detect- 
ive. "Beg pardon, miss," said the man, "but has a young 
gent named Frank Ayrton given you much jewellery lately?" 

" O, yes." 

Milly rattled off such items as she chose to mention. 

" Thank you ; that will do. He's been robbing his em- 
ployers to a very large amount, and we only want to know 
where the money's gone." 

It was very annoying, of course, but it was nothing to 
do with Milly or her mother. They knew he wasn't rich, 
this Frank Ayrton, but they were not to know he was 
robbing anybody to make presents of bracelets and neck- 
laces and rings. 



A GOLD BRACELET u 



Some of the jewellery was given up after a deal of per- 
suasion. Opinion, you see, was rather against Milly at 
the hall in this matter, and a certain sacrifice had to be 
made to opinion. 

Among the things kept back was the gold bracelet, 
Frank's first valuable present. There was no sentiment 
about keeping it. The girl kept it because she liked it. 

Frank Ayrton was condemned to a long period of penal 
servitude. With a white ashen face he heard the judge's 
awful sentence, and his lips moved in prayer. The court 
was hushed, and these words throbbed through the 
silence — 

" God help my poor old mother ! " 

Aye, God help her, for man never could. She bowed 
her head in agony when they took her darling away, and 
her heart broke. Never a word of complaining, never a 
cry against those who had lured him to his fate, only a face 
growing thinner and thinner, and tearless eyes staring into 
the past andbeholding the idol of her life, now an innocent 
child at her knee, and now the handsome youth on whose 
arm she leant as her steps grew feeble and her eyes grew 
dim. 

All was over now. Never more in this world would the 
bright face flash its sunshine to her heart — never more 
would the kindly hand press hers. Lost — lost for ever 
more. 

Her other children came about her, and she smiled faintly, 
but her life was chilled. There was no warmth anywhere. 
She was deaf — for she could not hear her boy — and was 
blind, for she could not see his face. In God's mercy the 
last great darkness closed about her soon, and then the fond 
heart ceased to ache. When the last breath struggled from 



i2 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

its poor case of clay it bore a name with it up to the throne 
of God. 

That name was Frank. 

***** 

It was when Milly Gordon, deserted by the broken-down 
swindler she had married, was searching her jewels to see 
which she best could spare that she came upon the gold 
bracelet. 

"Hullo! "she said; "I'd forgotten that. It's the one 
that gaby Frank Ayrton gave me. Poor fool ! Here, 
Nance, take this with you when you go out presently, and 
get a couple of pounds on it." 

And there it lies to-day, unredeemed. The time has gone 
by, and now it will be sold. 

O, gleaming band of gold, what will be your fate ? Who 
knows ? To go forth into the world again and deck the 
white flesh of wanton arms, to tempt folly and to pay vice? 
Who knows ? 

Perhaps the eye of love, honest and true, may light upon 
you. The inscription may be erased, and you may clasp 
the wrist of a sweet young wife ; faith and purity may 
hallow the memento of a lad's o'er-tempted love and a 
mother's broken heart. 

The woman who wore you once, and wrought the ruin 
that seems as I gaze upon you to fling its shadow over your 
shining face, has never missed you, has never thought of 
you since she flung you to the old charwoman to pawn for 
the pounds she wasted a short hour afterwards. 

Only a gold bracelet, lying among the unredeemed 
pledges in a pawnbroker's shop, and this is its story. 



Pledge II. 
A FLANNEL PETTICOAT 

An old worn-out flannel petticoat ! The merest trifle 
lent upon it — just a few coppers. The date on the ticket 
shows that it was on the coldest day of last winter that 
some wretched creature parted with it — came shivering 
through the raw, biting air, with this, almost her last garment, 
to change it for a crust to eat. 

The snow lay thick on the streets of London town that 
cruel winter day, the keen east wind seized belated way- 
farers by the throat, and the faces of healthy, well-fed folks 
were blue, and their teeth chattered as, comfortably clad, 
they hurried along. But they thought thankfully of the 
snug home and cheery fire that would greet them at their 
journey's end, and only walked faster and drew their com- 
forters more tightly round them. 

Down in Balder's-gardens — gardens where the weeds 
grow rankest, and flowers there are none — gardens where 
the foulest filth lies thick and disease in its myriad forms 
blossoms luxuriantly in the fattening soil — down in Balder's- 
gardens the demon of fever was abroad, and Death was 
reaping a ripe harvest. 

In the back room on the ground floor of one of the 
houses were three people. On a heap of rags lay a man in 
the last stage of consumption. In the opposite corner lay 
a dead child, and over it bent a woman rocking herself to 
and fro in an agony of grief, and muttering unintelligible 
words. 



14 THREE BRASS BALLS. 



A foul stench pervaded the atmosphere — the room was an 
inch thick in dirt and fungi caused by damp. The floor was 
rotten. Great patches of the ceiling were gone, and all 
was ruin and decay. 

"Meg!" 

From the heap of rags came the voice, and the woman 
left her dead baby and went over to the man. 

" Meg, prop us up a bit, will you ? " 

The woman stooped down and drew her husband up so 
that his back rested against the horrible wall. 

" Meg, it won't be long now before I'm gone. You ain't 
goin' out any more to-day, are you ? " 

The woman stooped down, and as she did so the dying 
man lifted his arm and put it about her neck. 

O, such a thin, wasted arm. An arm that told how fell 
had been the ravages of the disease whose work was well 



nigh done. 



" Meg, dear," whispered the man in a faint, weak voice, 
"stay with me now. Don't let me die alone." 

The woman, who had dried her streaming eyes when she 
came to her husband's side, broke down, and pressing her 
lips on the clammy brow, let her hot tears rain over his 
wan white face. 

" Don't, Meg, don't," he cried. " Bear up, my brave lass. 
Why should you cry ? I shall be well off soon. I shall be 
where there's no more hunger and cold and suffering. I 
shall be where the poor bairn's gone, thank God before 
me." 

" And I shall be left alone ! " 

There was a tone of reproach in the woman's voice. She 
couldn't help it. A moment afterwards she had laid the 
man's head on her trembling breast and was soothing him. 



A FLANNEL PETTICOAT 15 

" Won't you try and lie still, dear," she said, "while I go 
and get you something? " 

" Where can you get anything, Meg ? 1 don't want 
anything." 

" You are hungry, Jem, ain't you ? " 

The man smiled a faint, sickly smile. 

" No, dear, not very. I can last till — till I die." 

" Don't talk like that, Jem. You may live days yet if — " 

" If I have nourishing things — yes, I know. No, Meg, I 
wouldn't die with that crime on my soul. Do you think I 
would rob you of the last rag you have left that I might 
endure a few days more of anguish ? Do you think I don't 
know," he cried, raising his voice excitedly, " how you've 
got the things I've had already ? How you've robbed your- 
self, bit by bit, of every vestige of comfort that I might eat ? 
Haven't you pawned nearly every rag on your back ? " 

" No, really I haven't, dear. Don't you fancy that, Jem. 
It's your things I've pawned because — " 

" Because you knew I'd never want 'em again. Quite 
right, Meg, I never shall ! " 

" Let me go out now, Jem ; I want to go about burying 
poor baby, and when I come back you shall have a cup of 
tea." 

The man's bright eyes, bright with the inward flame 
that was consuming him, grew brighter still. A cup of tea ! 

Racked with pain, faint and hungry, and feverish, with 
his lips dry and cracking, his tongue glued to his mouth, 
and yet his body blue with the piercing cold that swept 
through crack and crevice and broken pane, his wife spoke 
to him of a cup of tea ! 

She noticed the look — she read its meaning. Amid all 
her agony, the loss of her poor baby, the sight of her 



i6 THREE BRASS BALLS. 



husband dying in this scene of horror slowly before her 
eyes, and her own cruel torture, which she hid as well as 
she could, there came a ray of sunshine to her. She had 
found out something that would give him one moment's 
ease — something he would like — a cup of tea. 

He should have it. Her poor clothes, every stick of furni- 
ture, every mean little thing on which a copper could be 
raised, had gone during the weary months Jem Summershad 
been slowly dying ; but she vowed that he should have his 
cup of tea. 

They had paid their last farthing the day before to the 
landlord of this vile hovel, for he granted no delay. Foul 
and pestilent as the dens were, they were in eager demand 
among the wretched waifs and strays of the mighty city, 
and it was a case of pay or go — pay or be turned out, sick, 
dying, or dead, into the streets. 

Since then Meg Summers had not tasted food. Her baby 
died in her arms in the night, its last faint cry being for the 
nourishment she could not give it. 

For hours it lay quiet and still in her weak arms, and 
when the first faint light fought its way through the dirt and 
filth of Balder's-gardens and fell upon its pinched and 
waxen face she saw that it was dead. 

And the man tossed to and fro on the rags, and mur- 
mured in his sleep of the old days when they had a snug 
little shop, and the customers called his wife " Pretty Mrs. 
Summers." 

So she was pretty, and no one knew it better than Jem, 
who was never so proud as when they went to Hampstead 
or the Green Lanes on Sunday and the folks turned round 
and looked at her. 

Ah, that was all long, long ago. Before trade got bad 



A FLANNEL PETTICOAT 17 

and Jem borrowed that £50, and gave a bill of sale, and 
then became ill and couldn't attend to business, and trade 
fell off and the instalments were not kept up, and at last the 
vultures swooped down upon their prey, and swept away 
all he had in the world for a balance of £20. 

Then the struggle began. It was a hard fight for life, 
and Jem was consumptive and got worse and worse, and at 
last was too weak to fight at all, and Meg had the baby, and 
fell ill herself, and so they drifted down till they got to 
Balder's-gardens, and paid three shillings a week for 
the death-trap they now lived — lived ! say rather died by 
inches — in. 

At first Jem got is. 3d. a day for walking about the streets 
dressed up as a sailor with a theatrical board on his back. 

Poor sailor ! The theatre people gave him the suit, but 
it was cut low down, to show the chest, like a blue-jacket's 
should be, and the cold winds soon made an end of his 
being a sailor, and though the suit kept his body warm he 
had to take it off at night and put on his own threadbare 
rags. 

When he couldn't move, but was taken for death, and lay 
with a hacking cough and a wasting body on the heap of 
rags, Meg tried to go out and earn a penny, and the baby 
, was nursed by its dying father. 

But Meg earned so little she had to part with her clothes 

to get sufficient food for Jem, and at last she got so shabby 

' and wretched the only work she could do was taken from 

her. She had sunk too low to be employed by respectable 

people. 

The cruel demon of starvation came nearer and nearer. 
Her child fell ill, and she tried to hide the worst from the 
poot heart-broken wreck of humanity whose life was ebbing 



1.8, THREE BRASS BALLS. 

fast in the foul damp corner where he lay and starved — and 
thought. 

He pretended not to be hungry, he said that food made 
him sick. 

It was a noble lie. 

A fierce hunger and a wild thirst added to the spasms of 
pain which he endured without a murmur. 

The craving for food he conquered, the burning thirst he 
could not. 

When he cried aloud for drink, at first Meg brought him 
water — water from the foul reservoir which supplies these 
festering dens — water which is full of nameless abomina- 
tions, which is more deadly than the costly poison of the 
Borgias — the water which God gives freely and which man 
in his vile greed has made a terror and a curse.* 

The poor wretch turned, parched and feverish as he was, 
from the foul-smelling liquid, and then Meg brightened up 
suddenly, and asked him if he would like some tea. 

She pawned something, Heaven knows what. Perhaps, 
God help her! some little rag that she thought the dying 
baby at her breast might spare for its dying father's sake, 
and got him the tea. 

How he enjoyed the poor mixture which she brought in 

a broken jug from the coffee-shop opposite the Gardens ! 

She couldn't make any herself. There were no coals, no 

kettle, no anything— not even water that she could touch. 

It revived him and nerved him, and gave him new 



* The locality inhabited by these people was recently visited, and was more 
horrible in fact than the writer has here made it atroear ti,„ 

. i 3 ^ 3-j.- v.- u -x • -j. • fi>=M. J- ne water supply 

existed under conditions which it is quite impossible to describe V t . 
of these dilapidated rookeries over forty people were living anfl \i~ , * ,, -■ 
„ ... , pi it. » „«„i, tile landlord 

realised the sum of ±1 15s. a week. 



A FLANNEL PETTICOAT 19 

strength, vile wash as it was, and he left some at the bottom 
of the jug and made Meg drink it, and kissed her. 

Now again to-day she sees the thirst is on him, and she 
promises him the tea. 

For a crust or two for him and herself she has stripped 
her poor limbs of almost everything. The last remnant she 
has to keep her from the pinching cold is an old flannel 
petticoat which a good soul gave her where last she 
worked. 

She kisses her husband, covers the poor dead baby 
reverently with a tattered apron, and goes out into the cruel 
blast. 

" I'll be back, dear, directly," she says at the door ; then 
shuffles away as fast as her weak limbs will carry her. 

She runs into a dark passage in the Gardens, slips the 
petticoat off, wraps it in a piece of newspaper she has 
brought with her, and hastens to the last haven of poverty. 
With a beating heart she dives past the three brass balls 
into one of the pawnbroker's dark little boxes, and puts the 
parcel down. She half fears it is so old and worn they will 
refuse it. 

The assistant knows her. She has come from time to 
time with her wardrobe, yielding it up bit by bit, and he can 
read her story. He has seen many a home go, and he 
knows by the order in which articles come what is reckless 
unthrift and what is absolute misery. 

He is a decent-hearted fellow ; he pities her. He just 
tears a bit of the paper aside and looks at the contents. 
" How much, missus? " 

" The most you can, sir," says Meg, eagerly ; "the most 
you can." Then she trembles, waiting for her fate. 

The pawnbroker's assistant looks at her poor pinched 



20 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

face for a moment, then at the blinding snow driving against 
the window-pane. 

He hesitates a moment, then makes out a ticket, and 
flings the pledge behind the counter. 

But he doesn't go to the till for the money ; he fumbles a 
second or two in his pocket and flings half-a-crown on the 
counter. 

" There you are, missus. Now then, mum, what's for 
you ? " 

This to a drunken Irishwoman, who has tumbled in with 
a bundle of clothes under her arm. 

Meg can hardly believe her eyes. Half-a-crown for her 
poor worn-out old rag. She stammers something, and 
rushes out of the shop. The joy is almost too much for 
her, and the tears stream down her poor, thin face. 

It is a wonderful advance on such a rag, and Meg may 
well be astonished. She was more astonished still when 
she looked at the ticket and found it was made out for 
fourpence. 

Then she knew that God had moved even the heart of a 
pawnbroker's assistant to pity her misery, and she looked 
up at the lowering heavens standing under the shadow of 
the golden balls, and her lips murmured a blessing on her 
benefactor. 

She hurried along as fast as she could, for she had 
nothing on now but her thin shawl, her threadbare, ragged 
cotton dress, and a few old thin rags, the patched and 
worthless remains of what had been clothes once. 

The bitter cold cut her to the heart, and weak with long 
vigils and the want of food, the strong wind almost took 
away her senses. It seemed as though she must sit d 
somewhere and give up, shut her eyes, and let the snow and 



A FLANNEL PETTICOAT. 21 

wind do their worst. But she clutched her half-crown and 
thought of Jem, lying and moaning in their wretched home 
all alone, and of what the bright silver piece would buy him, 
and she took courage and struggled on. 

Only for a little way. The cold blowing on to her fore- 
head made her head so queer — O so queer. Everything 
was going round — houses, streets, cabs, and people — O so 
fast, and the snow, too, seemed like a white circle, and the 
people were black dots in it. 

Meg staggered up against some railings and she clutched 
them — she tried to stand still. O, if the streets wouldn't 
whirl round her so fast she should be better. 

How strange it all was. She wanted to get home to Jem. 
Now the ground heaved up to her and sank down. She 
was as light as air. She was going up, up, up into the sky, 
and everything was dancing for joy. 

"Jem! J !" 

The word died on her lips, her head went down upon her 
breast, and she sank down a huddled-up mass of rags upon 
the snowy pavement, and the half-crown dropped from her 
clenched fingers and rolled away into the gutter's half- 
frozen slush. 

T* vfi *f» *F" 1* 

" Now then, missus — none o' this ! " 

The policeman got no answer. There was something 
breathing in the rags he bent over, but it had no voice. 

" What's the matter ? " asked an elderly ruddy-faced 
gentleman, as he elbowed his way through a crowd of idlers, 
who had gathered about the spot. 

" Only a woman, sir," said the policeman. 

"Drunk?" 

" I dessay. Here, missus, come — arn't you well ? " 



22 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

The policeman tried to pull Meg up. She never opened 
her eyes. Catching hold of her wrist the pawn-ticket fell 
from her hand. 

The policeman read it. 

" Ah ! " he said. " Guessed as much. Pawned her 
petticoat for fourpence and got drunk with the money. 
That's about it." 

" Dreadful ! " muttered the old gentleman ; " shocking ! 
The poor are shamefully improvident. What are you going 
to do with her ? " 

The policeman had decided what to do without being 
asked. Presently the stretcher came, and Meg was carried 
off to the station as a drunken woman found in the streets, 
and was put in a cell. 

In an hour the police-surgeon arrived, and was having a 
chat with the inspector and a warm at the fire, when the 
inspector remembered there was a woman insensible in one 
of the cells. 

"There was a woman brought in drunk just now, doctor," 
he said, " I think perhaps you had better have a look at 
her." 

The doctor went. He didn't have to look long to see 
what was the matter with Meg. She was only dead-that 
was all. 

Hunger and cold had done their work, and the poor weak 
loving heart had stopped for ever. 

That evening, at dinner a ni^o ,-jj ,i . , 

,, c L , ° ' .. ' a mce old gentleman with a 

ruddy face told his wife how he'd seen a woman lying in 
the streets who had actually pawned her flannel petticoat 
and got dead drunk with the money. 

And in the parish mortuary, cold and stiff witV, 1, 

.1,1 f ', n her glazed 

eyes upturned, and her poor rags frozen and filthy • u 



A FLANNEL PETTICOAT 23 

stain of the slush, lay the hapless wretch whose errand of 
love had terminated so miserably. 

***** 

Jem Summers waited and waited. The afternoon waned 
and night came on, and still no Meg. He called her with 
his feeble voice, and never a sound answered him. Once 
he fell off in a fitful sleep, and woke thinking he heard her 
breathing in a corner of the room. 

He crept out of the rags and crawled painfully across the 
filthy floor, dabbling with his hands in the damp and decay, 
and trying to find where she lay. 

Presently he came upon the cold dead body of his child, 
and touched it. 

In his weakness a great terror came upon him — a terror 
of being alone with death. "Meg! " he cried; " Meg! 
where are you?" 

He knew something dreadful must have happened. She 
must be dead. O God, if she were dead he was alone in 
the world — alone and dying, with never a voice that he 
knew to speak the last farewell to him. 

He couldn't stop there. He had a vague fear even of 
the dead child, though it was his own. 

He would go out. He would go into the street, and look 
for her. 

The man was mad now — mad with grief, despair, and 
terror. 

The excitement gave him a strength long foreign to his 
limbs. 

He had only a few rags about his body ; he seized the 
heap in the corner and flung them about him, and tottered 
into the alley, and so out into the street. 

The people in the Gardens saw him go by. " Hullo ! " 



24 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

said one, " there's another one mad with the fever ; who's 
that ? " Nobody knew, nobody cared. The shout of de- 
lirium and the wild action of the maniac were common 
enough in Balder's-gardens. 

Sometimes the folks that ran about shrieking and brand- 
ishing weapons were only drunk, sometimes they were mad ; 
Balder's-gardens didn't much care which it was. 

Jem Summers rushed along shouting for Meg. Nobody 
stopped him in the Gardens, but out in the street a police- 
man saw him, heard him shrieking, and gave chase. 

It was a weird, strange sight, the wild figure in the loath- 
some rags rushing madly through the gaslit streets, now 
up this turning, now down that, the people standing aside 
to let the madman pass ; none knowing what weapon he 
carried in his hand. 

At last the policeman came up close to him and clutched 
him. 

With a wild yell the maniac tore himself loose and 
plunged across the road. 

At that moment a heavily-laden waggon turned the 
corner swiftly. 

***** 
" Dash it all ! " said the police-surgeon, " that's two fatal 
cases I've had to-day. Poor devil ! What a rum creature 
he looks! Better put him in the deadhouse with the 
woman." 

So it came about that side by side in the dismal parish 
deadhouse lay Jem Summers and his wife. No one knew 
that a strange chance had united them in death. 

They were buried as nameless and unknown. Wh 
would trouble to find out the history of two such r A 

wretches as these dead outcasts? And by-and-b th 



A FLANNEL PETTICOAT. 25 

papers came out with a beautifully harrowing paragraph of 
a dead baby found in a den in Balder's-gardens, whose 
wretched parents had decamped and left it. 

This is not a nice story or a pretty story. The stories 
of the ragged flannel petticoats that are pawned on a bitter 
winter's day are not pretty as a ri^e. 



Pledge III. 
A DIAMOND RING. 

It was brought in on a very foggy night, and just as the 
pawnbroker was closing. It was quite a gentleman, who 
came in quietly, drew his glove off, removed the ring, and 
asked ten pounds on it. 

The money was lent directly. It was only a gipsy ring 
for the little finger, with a single stone, but it was worth 
treble that amount. 

The gentleman gave the name of John Smith, put the 
duplicate and the gold into his pocket together, and walked 
out into the fog. A little way up the street a four-wheeled 
cab was waiting, and the face of a lady deeply veiled was 
peering anxiously trom the window. 

The gentleman jumped in, saying to the driver, " London 
Bridge as quick as you can." The man whipped his horse, 
and away they went jolting over the London stones. 

" It's the most stupid thing in the world, my darling," 
said the gentleman presently, to his companion ; " in the 
hurry and confusion I came away without any ready 
money." 

The lady was alarmed. She had the appearance of 
having been in a terrible state of agitation for some time 
past. 

" Will that cause any delay ? — any " 

The gentleman took her hand reassuringly. « \ktu *. 
frightened goose it is, to be sure ! Not a bit. p V e bor A 



A DIAMOND RING. 27 

ten pounds of a — of a friend. I've letters of credit with 
me and my cheque-book, but like a stupid I put all my 
bank-notes in the portmanteau, and that's gone on 
and registered by now, and I couldn't open it at the 
station." 

" Do you think we shall be seen by anyone at the 
station ? " 

" Not a chance of it. If we'd gone by the mail route, 
it's ten to one we might have had a fellow passenger who 
would have recognised one or other of us. That's why I 
chose Newhaven and Dieppe." 

" Oh, Hubert, if he comes after us and there is a scene, 
I shall die." 

"My dear, how can he? He won't leave the House till 
after midnight. It is sure to be a late sitting, and by the 
time he gets home and finds the little bird flown, we shall 
be half-way across the Channel." 

The lady clasped the young man's arm and looked up 
into his face with earnest, pleading eyes. 

" Hubert, you will be faithful and true to me ? I have 
sacrificed all for you. If you betray my trust, I shall die." 

The young man flung his arm around the woman's waist 
and drew her closer to him, till her head rested on his 
shoulder. Then he stooped down and, raising her veil, 
kissed her trembling lips passionately. 

" My darling, trust in me. Your new life begins to-night. 
From this hour the arm that enfolds you is sacred to you, 
and you alone, for ever." 

***** 

At London Bridge the Newhaven and Dieppe train was 
up at the platform. 

A lady deeply veiled and leaning on the arm of Mr. John 



23 THREE BRASS BALLS. 



Smith passed through the barrier and took her seat in a 
first-class carriage labelled " Reserved." 

The gentleman saw her comfortably seated in the far 
corner, and then, bidding her not be nervous, hurried back 
to the platform. 

He looked about for a minute; then a man, who appeared 
to be a gentleman's servant, came up and touched his hat. 

" Is it all right, Griffiths? " asked Mr. Smith, drawing the 
man aside. 

" Yes, my lord. The luggage is all in, and registered in 
the name of Smith. Here's the ticket." 

" Right. Now you know what to do. Get full particu- 
lars of what happens, find out all you can from the servants, 
wire me at once, and then come over by the mail to-morrow 
night." 

" Yes, my lord." 

"Oh, by-the-by, Griffiths, I came away without any loose 
cash, and had to pawn my ring for the fare." 
" Nonsense, my lord ! " 

The idea of his lordship having to pawn anything was so 
ludicrous, that in spite of the gravity of the present situa- 
tion Griffiths burst out all over broad grins. 

Even Mr. Smith, who was called " My lord," smiled as he 
said, " Indeed I did, Griffiths. You had better take the 
ticket and get it out to-morrow, and bring it with you. 
The cheque I gave you this afternoon will cover it." 
" Yes, my lord." 

Mr. Smith fumbled about in his pockets, first in one then 
in the other, but nowhere was the ticket to be found. 

" Dash it all! I must have dropped it in the cab or in 
getting out." 

Everywhere that it was possible for the ticket to be Mr. 



A DIAMOND RING. 29 

Smith felt, and he was still rummaging among papers, 
letters, keys, and pocket-books when a bell rang, and the 
inspector at the barrier called out — 

" Any more for the boat train ? " 

Mr. Smith ceased fumbling in his pockets, buttoned up 
his coat, gave a few hurried instructions to his valet — for 
such was the honourable position Mr. Griffiths held — and 
then with a last " Mind you do exactly what I've told you," 
dashed through the barrier and took his seat in the reserved 
compartment opposite the veiled lady. 

The train steamed out of the station and rushed along 
the iron road into the night, carrying with it many an actor 
in some weird life drama. 

And as it started on its swift journey to the sea, Mr. 
Griffiths stood and looked after it, and murmured — 

" Won't there be a jolly rumpus in London to-morrow 
over this night's work ! " 

* * * * * 

The House of Commons sat until one o'clock in the 
morning. At that hour the pleasant little political club 
which amuses itself with the affairs of the nation broke up, 
and the great majority of the members made their way 
home. 

Mr. Charles Tredennick, M.P., leaning back in his 
brougham, and being whirled rapidly towards Belgravia, 
was not very happy in his mind. He idolised his wife and 
children, and had all his life found his greatest delight in his 
domestic circle. It was over that circle that of late the 
clouds had gathered. 

He was terribly troubled in his mind about his wife. 

He was not a jealous man, but the persistent attentions 
of a certain noble lord to Mrs. Tredennick had been ob- 



30 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

served by others. Everything that a man could do to make 
a woman happy he had done, but latterly a coldness had 
sprung up between them. Sometimes he blamed himself 
for his uneasiness. He felt that it was an insult to her to 
believe that a woman surrounded with every safeguard, and 
the mother of three beautiful little children, could ever 
listen for a moment to the voice of the tempter. 

He called himself an old fool for being frightened of a 
dandy — a vain, empty-headed lady-killer, and determined to 
think no more of it. 

But in spite of himself the horrible thought of danger 
would present itself. To-night or rather this morning, as 
he neared his home, the desponding fit was on him, and he 
could not shake it off. 

His wife's conduct had altered strangely. His lordship 
had ceased his noticeable attentions, it was true, but he had 
come upon his wife once or twice with tears in her eyes. 
Once he found her sobbing by the bedside of her eldest 
daughter, a sweet child of seven, who was weak and ailing, 
and at other times she had seemed strangely agitated, and 
had avoided him when he had tried to talk with her. 

Arrived at home he went straight to the drawing-room, 
expecting to find his wife there. The room was in dark- 
ness. The maid passed him on the staircase. 

" Parker, has your mistress gone to bed?" 

" No, sir, mistress is out." 

" Out ! " 

" Yes, sir. There is a note for you in your study." 

A note ! What could it mean ? His face went white as 
death. His heart almost stood still. 

Recovering himself, lest the girl should suspect something 
he tottered rather than walked to his study. 



A DIAMOND RING. 31 

There on his desk lay a letter. The handwriting was 
hers, but how her hand had trembled ! 

A sick, giddy feeling came over him as with trembling 
fingers he tore it open to read his fate : — 

" My Husband, — Forget me, I am unworthy of your great 
love. Tell my children I am dead. I can bear this hideous 
mockery no longer. Proclaim my shame to the world, and 
leave me free as I leave you. — Your unfaithful wife, DORA." 

With a wild cry of anguish, Charles Tredennick buried 
his face in his hands and sobbed like a child. 

***** 

" Dora, for the children's sake I ask it." 

The speaker was Mr. Tredennick. Those who had not 
seen him lately might have doubted it. 

The terrible shock of his wife's flight had added ten 
years to his appearance. 

He had found out all in time, had followed the guilty 
pair, and surprised them in their quiet apartments in the 
Avenue de la Reine, Champs Elysees, which they occupied 
as Mr. and Mrs. John Smith. 

At first the young nobleman, seeing who his visitor was, 
had been taken by surprise and had lost his self-possession, 
but gradually his habitual composure returned, and he sat 
calmly waiting until, the interview between husband and 
wife being ended, he might hear what arrangements were 
necessary for that satisfaction which injured husbands have 
a right to demand. 

Charles Tredennick took no notice of the destroyer of 
all he held dearest in life ; he spoke only to the woman who 
was the mother of his children. 

She, too, had been terrified at first, and her face was 
ghastly white. 



-12 THREE BRASS BALLS. 



"Dora," he said again, "do you hear me? Nothing is 
known by the world yet. For the sake of our children, 
whose future your shame will taint, come home with me." 

Slowly the woman raised her eyes and looked her husband 
in the face : — 

"No. I cannot. It is too late." 

" It is not too late. For your sake and the children's I 
will play a comedy. For them and for you I will still before 
the world be your trusting, loving husband. I will forgive 
and forget all. The dictates of love shall silence the voice 
of honour and of self-respect. Come back to my roof." 

"Never!" 

" You wish to be free — free to marry this — this scoundrel!" 

The young aristocrat sprang from his seat with a flushed 
face. Then with an effort he conquered his passion, and 
said quietly — 

"You have a right to insult me, Mr. Tredennick: use 
that right to its fullest extent." 

Mrs. Tredennick came across the room to her lover and 
took his arm. 

" Listen, Charles Tredennick. You are a good man and 
I am a wicked woman. I weighed all the consequences of 
my act before I left your house. I have never loved you— 
I love this man. As you are so noble and so generous, 
leave me free to marry him." 
" And the children ? " 

"Will be saved from the contamination of my presence. 
Sue for your divorce, for their sake as for mine. Their 
mother will then be a nobleman's wife, not a nobleman's 
mistress." 

" What this lady says is quite right, Mr. Tredennick. 
What sin and shame there is your generous act would never 



A DIAMOND RING. 



undo. Leave the lady free, and I will make her my lawful 
wife before God and man." 

" On your hon — " 

Charles Tredennick stopped, and a bitter smile crossed 
his lips : — 

" On your oath, I should say, my lord." 

" On my oath." 

"Enough. Dora, if aught in my conduct has brought 
you to this wretched act, may God forgive me. I would 
sooner have seen you cold and lifeless in your coffin than 
see you as you are now. Henceforward, we are dead to 
each other. The children you have forfeited are mine alone. 
I will, with God's help, shield them from the consequences 
of their mother's act." 

He walked across the room. At the door he turned and 
looked earnestly at his lost wife. 

" Dora, farewell. You shall have the liberty you desire, 
and may you never regret the choice you have made. 
Your future is in God's hands and your own. Good-bye." 
***** 

"Tredennick v. Tredennick and " was the talk of 

London for more than the usual nine days. Then it was 
forgotten in a fresh scandal. 

The man for whom Dora Tredennick had sacrificed 
herself redeemed his word, and wedded her directly the 
divorce was pronounced, and before the world she seemed 
a happy woman. 

But she had been a mother, and now that the mad passion 
which had carried her away had cooled with time, she 
missed the soft caressing hands of her children. 

Her new husband was as kind and gentle as his nature 
and his training would let him be. He did not altogether 

C 



34 THREE BRASS BALLS. 



regret his chivalrous action (his own words, not mine), but he 
didn't care to settle down to humdrum turtle-dove business, 
especially as at times he found, though the Church had 
given them its blessing, they were not received everywhere 
with open arms. He was, of course, but the wife was 
occasionally cold-shouldered. 

Once or twice his pride had a severe wound in this way, 
and he began to think he had made a great sacrifice. Her 
ladyship, too, was in a bad state of health, and had grown 
dull, and was not a cheerful companion. He got discon- 
tented and had fits of blue devils, and so to drive them 
away took to his old haunts and companions again. 

One of his old haunts was a little theatre at the West 
where the ladies were more remarkable for their splendid 
figures than for their brilliant talents. 

One night at this house, the hundredth night of a piece 
was celebrated by a supper, at which rank and beauty were 
lavishly represented. The gentlemen contributed the rank, 
and the ladies the beauty. Talent was invited, but most of 
it had a cold and couldn't come. 

Lord sat at supper by a dashing young lady who was 

one of the goddesses in the mythological burlesque which 
was in the bills. She was a talkative goddess, and was ex- 
tremely confidential with her neighbour. 

While she was chatting, she made a liberal use of her 
arms and hands to show her bracelets and rings. 

One ring particularly attracted the attention of his lord- 
ship. 

It was a gentleman's diamond ring, and he recognised it 
in a moment. 

" By Jove, where did you get that from ? " 

The question was so abrupt the girl was flung off her guard. 



A DIAMOND RING. 35 

" Father picked the ticket up in his cab ever so long ago, 
and I took it t?ut." 

There was a roar of laughter from the young ladies 
opposite. " Father's cab " was a secret which the goddess 
had not hitherto divulged to her fellow deities. 

She waxed wroth and her face went red. 

" You needn't grin and show your false teeth, Martha 
Higgins, as calls yourself Evar de Mountmerency. Your 
father's a chimbley-sweep." 

There was a cry of indignation from the De Montmorency, 
and a glass of champagne was hurled in the face of the 
slanderous goddess. 

The gentlemen jumped up, the ladies shrieked, and as. 
there seemed every probability of a free fight, his lordship,, 
not knowing what might be the end of it, thought it prudent 
to withdraw and leave the question of his ring till he had 
another opportunity of seeing Miss Dolly Dalrymple (the- 
goddess) under more auspicious circumstances. 

***** 

A time of peril was approaching for Lady . She 

was about to become a mother. As the hour of her travail: 
drew near a dread terror fell upon her that she should not 
survive it. 

She felt miserable, lonely, and ill at ease. The loving; 
arm that should have been hers to lean on was rarely near 
her now. Her husband sought his pleasures far from home. 

Sitting in her room after he had given her a careless kiss 
and gone off to his midnight haunts, w r ith a hint he should 
not be home till " late," she thought of how differently her 
other husband had treated her at such a time. 

Her heart was filled with a strange yearning to see him 
once again — to see him and her children. 



36 THREE BRASS BALLS. 



She felt so lonely now. Oh, If she could only have felt 
the clasp of his loving hand ; if she could only have heard 
her little children murmur her name. But that was im- 
possible. A yawning abyss separated the old life from the 
new. Her husband was away with his gay companions, her 
child had yet to be born. 

She had asked her husband to stay with her this evening. 
He had muttered a few words — said he had an engagement. 
" Wouldn't to-morrow do ? " 
" Oh yes, to-morrow would do." 

She sighed as he closed the door, and her eyes filled with 
tears. Presently she moved across the room to get a book, 
and lying on the floor just where her husband had stood she 
saw a crumpled piece of paper. 
She picked it up. 

It was a note, scented with patchouli, and written in a big 
round scrawl : — 

" Dere Ole boy, — Me and Lotty Vaversour gives a supper 

tonite at the G Resteront. The Markis and Gustus 

and Lord Halfrid is comin will you make one and then we 
can tork about the dimind ring as you want back agin & 
come to tirms. Come to my dressin room tonite early to 
say if youre comin as hutherwise I shall have to ast sum- 
boddy else to make up the partey.— Yours ever faithfull 
Dolly Dalrymple." 

Her ladyship had no idea that this insolent familiarity 
meant nothing. She did not know that her husband had 
merely asked this young woman to sell him back the 
diamond ring which had accidentally come into her posses- 
sion, and that the jade had seized the opportunity to show 
him off at a supper party to her male and female friends as 
one of her " conquests." 



A DIAMOND RING 37 

The poor lady, wretched and desponding, sick at heart 
and full of vague apprehensions concerning the terrible 
ordeal through which she was so soon to pass, read in it only 
that her husband had given a diamond ring to some worth- 
less woman, that he wanted it back, and that on the night 
when she had asked him to stay with her and cheer her 
drooping heart he had gone out to sup with this creature 
and her companions. 

She read the note through, then dropped it as though its 
touch were contagion. She buried her face in her hands and 
moaned aloud, " O merciful God ! It is for a man like this 
that I have sacrificed so much." 

Late that night a doctor was sent for in all haste. 

Up in the great bed-room, surrounded by all the pomps 
of the upholsterer's art, my lady lay, with a white face and 
restless eyes. 

She was very ill. 

The attendants moved noiselessly about the room, the 
doctor with a grave face gave whispered directions, and 
came again and again to the bedside of the patient. 

The crisis was passed, and by her side there lay a feeble 
little mite of humanity that every now and then raised its 
tiny voice. 

She would have it there — there, near her, where she 
could touch it. 

She had said as much once, but now she could not raise 
her voice. She only spoke with her eyes. 

It was far into the night, and the doctor looked 
anxiously at his watch. He had sent for her ladyship's 
husband, for he knew that the poor creature was sinking — 
that, in spite of all that skill could do, her life was ebbing 
fast. 



38 THREE BRASS BALLS. 



They had sent to his lordship's club, but he was not 
there. No one knew where to go. 

The dying wife, could she have spoken, might have said 
where he was, but she made no sign. Only the sorrowful 
eyes turned now and then from the baby by her side to the 
door, as though waiting for someone to enter. 

At five in the morning he came home. His man told 
him down stairs what was the matter, and he had a basin of 
water brought and dashed his head into it, for the Dalrymple 
supper had been a " wet " one. 

Then, with a great effort steadying his disobedient limbs, 
he climbed the stairs and stac^ered into the bed-room. 

He was shocked at the news he had heard ; it had 
sobered his brain, but his legs and arms were drunk still. 

He rolled a little as he crept on tiptoe to the bedside where 
the woman who had given up so much for him lay dying. 

She opened her eyes and looked at him with a strange 
look that will haunt him all his life. 

It was not reproach, it was not anger ; it was a look of 
unutterable despair. 

He laid his hand gently on her pillow, and as he did so 
her eyes fixed themselves on the diamond ring that glistened 
on his finger. 

Speech never returned to her. In the morning she was 
unconscious, and at noon she was dead. 

In her last hours it is probable that her whole life came 
back to her, and, sinking into eternity, she saw what she 
had lost. 

And strangely enough, the diamond ring which had been 
pawned on the evening of her guilty flight, and of which 
she knew nothing, was the Nemesis that came to her death- 
bed side, and gave the last pang to her broken heart. 



Pledge IV. 
A SUIT OF BLACK. 

JACK WORRALL woke up very queer and miserable. 

It was Sunday morning, the morning to which he 
always looked forward with pleasure after a hard week's 
work. 

Generally he was up with the daylight and off to the 
public baths, where he had a nice invigorating swim, and 
felt clean and Sundayfied, and then he came back and had 
breakfast with the missus, put on his Sunday clothes, and 
went out for a walk with his chums while the missus got the 
dinner ready. 

Sunday was a day of rest to him, and he enjoyed it better 
than any gentleman in the land did. The close, grimy 
atmosphere of the workshop was exchanged for the beauti- 
ful pure air and the green fields and the blue sky. On fine 
Sundays Jack always got a little way out to the Cockney 
country, a poor, dirty, withered, crowded country, it is true, 
but still beautiful to the eyes of the city toiler in close 
workshop pent. 

Jack didn't drink. He didn't count it a virtue, but he 
had never had the appetite. He didn't like beer, and he 
couldn't afford wine. 

Sometimes on a Sunday when Jack was out for a walk with 
his mates they would ask him to come and be a bona-jide 
traveller, and have a " beer." 

" No, thanks, lads," Jack would say. " You go and have 



40 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

your beer ; I'll stop outside and have another mouthful of 
champagne." 

The fresh air was Jack's champagne, and a right good 
brand it is. It runs through your veins and quickens your 
pulse. It sets your cheeks tingling pleasantly, and makes 
you feel so light and merry, and there's no headache 
after it. 

O glorious vintage of God's champagne, the pure sweet 
air, even you are becoming an expensive luxury now, and 
we must go farther and farther afield to find you. 

Now, this Sunday morning, Jack, who generally woke 
refreshed from his slumber and jumped out of bed to see 
what the weather was like, felt very strange and queer. 
He had a dim recollection of something unpleasant having 
occurred the previous evening, and suddenly the scene came 
back to him. 

He had had a terrible quarrel with his wife ; the first real 
thunderstorm had disturbed the atmosphere of his home. 

She lay by his side, still asleep. She was breathing 
heavily, and Jack sat up in bed and looked at her face with 
a pained, worried look. 

" Missus," he said presently, nudging her with his elbow, 
" how are ye this morning ? " 

The woman opened her eyes and looked at him stupidly. 

" All right, Jack, only my head aches." 

" Well, lie in bed, my lass, and I'll get up and make ye 
something before I go to the baths." 
"Thank you, Jack." 

Mrs. Worrall turned her face to the wall again, and closed 
her eyes, and Jack slipped on his working clothes and went 
down into the kitchen. 

He lit the fire and tidied up a bit ; then, when the water 



A SUIT OF BLACK. 41 

boiled, he made a nice cup of hot strong tea, and took it to 
the bed-room. 

" Here you are, old lady, drink this, and you'll be all 
right." 

Mrs. Worrall took the proffered cup and raised it eagerly 
to her lips. 

Then Jack, bidding her make haste up and see to his 
breakfast and put his Sunday clothes out, went off to the 
public baths. 

Directly he was out of the room Mrs. Worrall began to 
moan. 

She was a comely woman of about two-and-thirty, dark, 
and broad-shouldered — not at all the sort of woman you 
would expect to be nervous, but her hand trembled as she 
put down the cup her husband had given her. 

"Lor', how bad I do feel!" she moaned. "I feel all 
shivery shakey, and my head's regular splitting." 

Mrs. Worrall stooped down and drew from a narrow place 
between the bed and the wall something that had evidently 
been put there to be out of sight. 

It was a flat bottle, half full of spirit. 

" I must have a drop," sighed Mrs. Worrall, " or I'll never 
be able to get up." 

She poured out a little into the tea, and then drank the 
mixture off. 

She felt revived, and smacked her lips. 

"Won't there be a row when he finds out about his best 
clothes ! " she muttered, hurrying on her things. " Well, I 
can't help it. He must row." 

*l* *X* 'I* *1* 

Jack came back from the baths and found his breakfast 
ready. 



42 THREE BRASS BALLS. 



Generally it was the most comfortable meal of the week, 
this Sunday morning breakfast, for he had time to sit and 
talk to his wife, and read her all the interesting little bits 
out of the paper. 

But this morning the conversation flagged. Jack hadn't 
the heart to talk, for the scene of the previous night was 
uppermost in his mind. 

His wife had gone out to market and come home drunk. 
Yes, absolutely drunk. He had noticed lately that some- 
times of an evening she was a little flurried and excited, 
and didn't seem to know quite what she was doing, and 
once or twice he had been on the point of advising her to 
give up her beer, as he thought it muddled her, but last 
night was a revelation. 

His Polly that he was so proud of, that was always clean 
and neat and respectable, and " quite the lady" in her ways, 
had come home drunk. 

Jack spoke out then, kindly but firmly. He had a horror 
of drunken people ; even with his companions if one of them 
got the worse for liquor he always wanted to run away ; and 
to have the horror forced upon him under his own roof was 
too much. 

When Mrs. Worrall, with a flushed face, began to 
argue with him in a silly, maudlin way, Jack got 
rightdown angry. Then she got angry too, and raised 
her voice and screamed at him, and at last there was a 
real row. 

Jack took his wife by the shoulders and looked straight 
in her eyes. 

" Look here, missus. Once, and for all, I won't have it. 
I know what Saturday night drinking means ; it's the 
beginning of ruin. It means the roof off our heads and the 



A SUIT OF BLA CK. 43 

clothes off our backs. If you spend your money that way, 
I shall do the marketing myself." 

Mrs. Worrall stared stupidly at her husband, and then 
had a good cry, which seemed to do her good, for presently 
she settled down into sulky quietude, and, clearing away the 
supper things, went up to bed. 

Now Jack remembered all this as he sipped his tea and 
read his newspaper. He found himself picking out all the 
police news about drunkenness, and he couldn't get the 
subject out of his head. 

When breakfast was over, he put down the paper and 
went up stairs to dress and go out. Perhaps a walk to 
Highgate would do him good. 

"Now for it!" said Mrs. Worrall, as she heard him 
tramping about the little room overhead. " Oh dear ! I do 
feel so frightened." 

She was all of a tremble now, and was obliged to bring 
out a little bottle from her pocket and have a wee sip to 
steady her nerves. 

"Polly!" 

It was her husband calling down the stairs. 

" Yes, dear." 

" What have you done with my clothes ? I can't find 'em 
anywhere." 

What could she say ? — her heart was in her mouth, and 
the bottle was there too, just to give her voice to speak 
with. 

"Jack!" 

" Yes." 

" Come down here ; I want to tell you something." 

Jack came down with a worried look on his face. What 
did it all mean ? 



44 THREE BRASS BALLS. 



The woman went up to him and fawned about him like a 
dog who has done wrong and expects to be punished fawns 
about its master. 

She took his hand, and said in a trembling voice, " Jack, 
I was drunk last night ! " 

"Well, I know that, worse luck." 

" Jack, dear, it was trouble made me have too much. I 
was in great trouble last night." 

Jack WorralPs honest face grew graver and graver. 
" Polly, my lass, if a woman's in trouble she should go to 
her husband, not to the public-house. Come, tell me all 
about it." 

" Jack, I've been spending the money you gave me 
stupidly, and when I wanted new things I had them of the 
tallyman, and I got in debt, and last week if I hadn't paid a 
pound they'd have come to you, and I — I pawned your 
clothes, Jack, for the money, intending to get them out 
before Sunday." 
"What!" 

" Indeed, Jack, dear, I did mean to. Mrs. Brown, next 
door, promised to lend me a pound faithfully, and then she 
couldn't, and I couldn't get your clothes out, and I was so 
worried I had the drink." 

Jack Worrall felt something swelling in his throat. Had 
it come to this ? His Polly, his good, honest Polly, owing 
money to tallymen, deceiving her husband, borrowing of her 
neighbours, pawning her husband's clothes, and drinking to 
drown her trouble ? The tears trickled down his face. 
Why, this is how those dreadful cases began that he read 
about in the Sunday newspapers, the ruined homes, the 
suicides, the murders. Oh, it was too horrible. What had 
he done to deserve this ? 



A SUIT OF BLACK. 45 



Polly was touched by her husband's tears, and she began 
to sob too. 

"Oh, Jack, say you forgive me! I wouldn't have done 
it if I'd ha' known you'd grieve so." 

Jack jumped up and dashed his tears away with his fist. 

" Look here, Polly. I don't care for the clothes — curse 
the clothes ! — it's you I'm thinkin' about. You've taken 
the first step on the road to ruin, and it's along o' that 
cursed drink ! There, don't howl like that. Come and kiss 
me. I'll forgive you this time. But I must keep a sharp 
eye on you for the future." 

" What do you mean, Jack? " 

" I mean this, my lass — that you've betrayed the trust I 
put in you, and that I must watch you as I would my 
deadliest enemy." 

Jack sat at home all that Sunday in his working clothes, 
and felt very miserable. Two of his mates called for him, 
and he was ashamed to see them. He sent Polly to the 
door to say he couldn't come, and they went off without him. 

It was a fine bright day, and he longed to be out in the 
pure air, but he couldn't go in his working clothes ; he knew 
what his acquaintances would think directly. They would 
chaff, and ask him what he'd put his Sunday "togs" up the 
spout for. Jack had always been a violent denouncer of the 
unthrifty habits of his class, and he couldn't have all his old 
weapons turned against himself. 

So he sat at home miserable and wretched. He was in 
the way while the dinner was being got ready, and that 
made Polly nervous, and she had a quiet turn or two at 
that bottle, and somehow she got all in a muddle, and the 
meat was burnt and Jack couldn't eat. Then she cried, and 
he scolded, and all the afternoon neither of them spoke a 



46 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

word ; and at tea-time Polly tilted the kettle and scalded 
her arm so badly she had to go out to the chemist's 
and get some stuff to put on it, and the pain was so great 
that going along, and seeing the public-houses opening, she 
had to go in and get a little brandy, she felt so faint and 
queer ; and while she was there she had her bottle filled. 

When she got home Jack was asleep on the sofa, and so 
she went up stairs and lay down on the bed and dropped 
off too. 

Jack woke presently, all in the pitch dark, and groped 
about to find a light. 

" Polly ! " 

No answer. Polly had finished the bottle, and was dead 
asleep. 

" Polly ! Why; where the devil can she be ? " 

A Sunday at home in his working clothes had played sad 
havoc with Jack's temper. 

"Polly!" he shouted again, with a voice to waken the 
Seven Sleepers ; and still no answer. 

" She must have gone into one of the neighbours'," he 
muttered. " I wonder where the paraffin is. 

Groping about in cupboards and corners, Jack at last 
succeeded in getting the lamp and the paraffin and the 
matches together. 

He was very disagreeable and out of temper, and when 
after all his trouble the matches wouldn't strike he felt 
inclined to swear. 

"Some of those blessed things that only ignite on the 
box, I suppose," he said, after he'd tried the wall the sole 
of his boot, the nutmeg-grater, and the mantelshelf. 

The matches he had found loose without the box and he 
couldn't get a light at the fire because the fire had gone out. 



A SUIT OF BLACK. 47 

He wasn't going to sit there in the dark till his w;fe 
chose to walk herself back. He paced up and down the 
room, working himself up into a rage. The miserable 
Sunday had done its work. He thrust his hands into his 
jacket pocket viciously — his working jacket — and there he 
came upon his old clay pipe and a box of vesuvians. 

Then it struck Jack he might get a light with tht. 
vesuvian, by putting it to the wick. He turned back to the 
table and struck a "flamer," and the lamp and the paraffin 
can were there. He turned up the wick and was touching 
it with the light, when the head of the flamer fell off on to 
the cloth, and set it alight. Jack dashed his hand down in 
a hurry to put it out, and knocked over the paraffin can. 
The paraffin was alight in a moment. A stream of liquid 
fire poured over the table on to the floor. Jack rushed 
about trying to stamp it out, and all in vain. The wood 
began to crackle, the drapery caught, the flames rose higher 
and higher, the place was filled with smoke. 

" Fire ! " cried Jack at the top of his voice. " Fire ! '* 
And then the black smoke drove him out of the room into 
the street. 

The neighbours came out at his cry. By this time the 
fire had spread, and the sparks were flying. The black 
smoke puffed out, and through the windows the red glow o£ 
the fire shone. 

"Anybody inside?" asked a policeman. 

" No," said Jack. " The missus is out, thank God ! " 

Jack Worrall was wild and excited. He wanted to get 
in again and save some of his household gods, but they 
wouldn't let him. Better lose all he had in the world than 
his life, the neighbours told him, and held him back. 

The fire spread rapidly. The crowd gathered, the next- 



4 S THREE BRASS BALLS. 



door neighbours began to get their goods together in the 
street, the first engine came upon the scene, and then all 
was shouting and yelling and confusion. 

Jack Worrall, pushed back by the crowd, stood an 
agonised spectator of the scene. Here was a pretty end to 
his Sunday. He wondered why his missus hadn't come out. 
If she was at a neighbour's she'd be sure to hear the news, 
he thought. She couldn't be in the house. He went hot 
and cold as the idea occurred to him. But no — that was 
impossible. He'd shouted up stairs twice and received no 
answer when he was trying to get a light. 

Suddenly a wild cry went up from the crowd, and then a 
breathless silence fell upon it. 

Right through the smoke and flame they could make 
out the white face of a woman. She was at the bed-room 
window, her eyes starting from their sockets with horror, 
her arms waving wildly, and her lips babbling incoherent 
words. 

She shrieked for help, she tore her hair, she foamed at 
the mouth, the hot breath of the fiery death fell upon her 
face, there was no escape, the lower portion of of the house 
was in flames, and the staircase was impassable. 
" Jump ! " shouted a fireman, " jump ! " 
The neighbours brought a blanket and held it to catch 
her, but the woman would not leap. Terror glued her to 
the spot. 

" If she stays there another minute she's a dead woman," 
said the fireman. " She'll be suffocated and fall back into 
the flames." 

" Where's the escape ? " 

"We've sent for it, but it'll be five minutes before it's 
here, and it'll be too late." 



A SUIT OF BLACK. 4g 



" Good God ! Why, there's two of 'em. There's a man 
as well." 

Yes, there were two of them in the fiery furnace now. 

Jack Worrall had dashed into the burning building and 
battled through the smoke and the flame to where his wife 
stood shrieking and panic-stricken. 

He seized her in his stalwart arms. She shrieked and 
struggled and tore at his face in her mad terror, but he con- 
quered her. Lifting her by main force, he raised her from 
her feet and swung her to a level with the window. 

The firemen had a blanket and a mattrass ready. 

Jack Worrall gave one glance below, and then with a 
superhuman effort forced the body of the woman through 
the window, and loosing his hold let it drop. 

Down it came swiftly. The crowd held its breath, then 
gave a mighty cheer. 

The woman was safely caught, and they were dashing 
water in her face, for she had swooned. 

But the man ? What of him ? Was he not going to 
jump ? Yes. He had climbed out of the window ; he was 
hanging on by his hands to the ledge, and his feet were 
swinging in the air. 

At that moment there was a shriek. 

The men holding the blanket leapt back, for it was a 
mass of brickwork that had fallen with a crash into the street. 

At that instant Jack Worrall let go, and fell with a dull 
thud among the debris on the pavement. 

Three years have elapsed since Jack Worrall was burnt 
out of house and home. 

It was Sunday morning in Lumpton's lodging-house in 
the Borough. 



5" THREE BRASS BALLS. 

Lumpton's lodging-house was a very respectable one of 
its kind, and the proprietor prided himself on its reputation. 
There was no working against the police there. Joey 
Lumpton always told his customers fair and square that he 
was straight, and he didn't want anybody there that wasn't. 
Of course, if thieves and swindlers came with their four- 
pences, they got a bed, but Joey didn't try to make them 
very comfortable. 

Most of the flash folks and the artful dodgers found the 
moral atmosphere of Lumpton's too bracing for their deli- 
cate constitutions, and so gradually they gave it the go-by, 
and the company became select — as select, that is, as 
you can expect in a fourpenny lodging-house. 

Imagine the disgust, therefore, of Mr. Lumpton when, 
just as the nobility and gentry of Blank-street, Borough, 
were going to church, shrieks and oaths and yells and the 
sound of blows issued from the kitchen or common room in 
his establishment. 

" It's that one-legged man and his drunken wife, drat 
'em ! " said Mr. Lumpton, rushing down stairs to the 
kitchen. " I'll turn 'em out. I won't have 'em here." 

Louder grew the shrieks, and fiercer the oaths. It was 
evident the one-legged gentleman and his good lady were, 
to borrow a figure from the vigorous vernacular, "going it 
liammer and tones." 

" Jack, dear Jack, mercy ! " 

It was a woman's voice. 

There was a crushing blow, and then all was still. 

Mr. Lumpton rushed into the kitchen. 

It was the common kitchen, but the one-legged man and 
his wife had it to themselves. The other lodgers had 
breakfasted and gone out. 



A SUIT OF BLA CK. 5 1 

" Now then, what's this ? " said Mr. Lumpton. " Hullo ! 
this is a police job." 

The woman lay where her husband had knocked her. He. 
was brandishing his crutch and still livid with rage. 

"This is a serious job, guv'nor," said Mr. Lumpton r 
looking at the woman. " I shall send for a policeman." 

"Send for one, and be hanged to you! I want to be 
locked up. If I've killed her and they swing me, it'll be a 
happy release for both of us." 

The one-legged man had not killed his wife, but he had' 
seriously injured her, and he was marched off to the station. 
When she was able to give evidence he was brought before 
the magistrate, but she tried to beg him off. 

" It was her fault. Oh, she'd been a wicked wife to him. 
She'd taken to drink and ruined him. He lost his leg 
saving her life at a fire. He broke it falling into the street, 
and it had to be cut off. And he'd only earned very little 
since then. And all their beautiful home was burned, and: 
they lost every penny they had in the world." 

But there was other evidence — Mr. Lumpton's, the 
doctor's, the lodgers who'd heard the man threaten her — 
quite enough evidence to commit Jack Worrall for trial. 

At the trial he was convicted, but not before witnesses 
had told the story of his long martyrdom, and how his wife 
had gradually brought him to the brink of starvation. 

The last quarrel was a singular one. 

Some three years ago the woman had pawned his Sunday 
clothes, the fire swept away all he had, and he couldn't 
raise the money to get his suit out again. He struggled 
and struggled, and kept the wolf from the door, but they 
had to live from hand to mouth and had no home. 

Still, he managed for two years to scrape the money 

D 2 



52 THREE BRASS BALLS. 



together to pay the interest on the ticket, which the wife 
had in her pocket at the time of the fire, and so saved. 

The third year came round, and again, with a vigorous 
effort, Jack had saved the money for the ticket. 

Saturday was the last day, and he heard of a chance job 
at the docks. He went to look for it, and cave his wife the 
money to pay the interest. He told her it must be paid or 
he should lose his suit. He always treasured the idea that 
some day he would be able to get it out again. She had 
taken the money — the money he had saved by starving 
himself — and spent it in drink, and he found out on Sunday 
morning that all his money was wasted, and the last relic of 
his prosperous days, his suit of black, was lost for ever. 

And then in his rage he raised his crutch and felled her 
to the ground. 

rf* ?JC «P JJC JJt 

Jack had a light sentence, for the provocation he had 
received was taken into account, and those who had known 
him in his prosperity came forward and gave him a good 
character. 

While he was away from her in prison a great change 
came over Polly. She realised now the extent of her 
wickedness. She read her shameful story in the papers, and 
it was headed " A Bad Wife." 

From the day when she saw his pale face disappear as he 
went down stairs from the court-house she vowed, God 
helping her, he should find a different woman when he came 
out. 

She signed the pledge, and placed herself in the hands of 
a charitable apostle of temperance, who interested himself 
on her behalf. 

With his assistance, and the help of her husband's old 



A SUIT OF BLA CK. 53 

friends, whose sympathies were aroused by his misfortune, 
she gradually got a little home about her. 

Not a word was said to Jack by those who visited 
him, only he was told that his wife was reforming, and he 
was deeply thankfu. 1 . 

The day came at last when Jack was free again. 

She met him at the gates, neat and tidy, and as in the 
dear old days, and brought him home. 

Yes, home ! To two dear little rooms, cosily furnished. 
And when he had got over that astonishment there was a 
letter from his old employer offering him the office of time- 
keeper. A man doesn't want two legs to be a timekeeper, 
and of course Jack could accept it. 

But when the first Sunday morning came round Jack had 
the greatest surprise of all. 

When he opened his eyes and got out of bed, there, on 
the chair, was a new suit of black, which he found Polly had 
bought by putting by the money that beer would have cost 
her every day. 

And when he stooped down and kissed her, she whispered 
in his ear, "Jack, dear, I don't mean to pawn these." And 
Jack laughed, and said, " No, Polly. If you did, and it cost 
me the other leg, a whole suit would be of no use to me." 

You may be sure he'd got over the loss of his leg if he 
could joke about it, so we may take it that he was happy 
and comfortable again at last. 

So all ends happily, which is a matter for congratulation. 
It is not often that stories which begin in the shadow of the 
Three Brass Balls ever get out into the bright sunshine 



Pledge V 
A GOLD LOCKET. 

Dead! 

There was the name in the fatal list. What was it to her 
that he died nobly, sword in hand, shouting with his last 
breath to cheer his men ? What was it to her that ere the 
savage foe closed in upon the devoted band he with his 
good right hand had almost piled a wall of slain in front of 
him ? 

The people read of his brave deed, and his name was on 
every tongue. The pulses of strong men beat the quicker, 
and their faces flushed when they read what his British 
pluck had done. Claud Brettingham's name was on every 
lip, and the country rang with the story of his fate. 

She heard it with the rest of the world. The news of 
a battle and a great defeat came first, and then a list of the 
missing and killed, with further details and the full narrative 
of Claud Brettingham's heroism. 

She read the account and she flushed with no pride. 
There was no charm for her in the story of his prowess. 
Her cheeks went ashen white, she uttered a sharp cry of 
agony, and then gazed into vacancy with a look of blank 
despair. 

She was his wife. The man who had died, whose body 
lay buried under the long grass, was her husband, her noble 
handsome Claud. 

And to think they had parted miserably, to think that 



A GOLD LOCKET 55 

he lay cold and still for evermore, and would never know 
how truly she had loved him ! 

The history of their marriage had been a strange one. 
Eleanor Mayne and Claud Brettingham had known each 
other from children. The estate of the Maynes joined that 
of the Brettinghams, and the families lived on terms of the 
greatest intimacy. 

In due course a match was talked of between Claud 
and Eleanor, and by-and-by it became quite an under- 
stood thing that the young folks would fall in love and 
get married. 

They did marry in due time, but they never fell in love. 

Claud went into the Army, and Eleanor became a London 
belle. They met quite as much during the season as they 
used to in the country, and presently an announcement 
appeared in the society journals that a marriage had been 
arranged between Captain Brettingham, of the — th Foot, 
and Miss Eleanor Mayne, the young beauty and heiress. 

" Arranged " was a most suitable word under the cir- 
cumstances. Eleanor was quite willing to oblige her parents, 
but Claud tried very hard to upset the "arrangement." 
He found that his mother had set her heart upon the match ; 
he supposed he would have to marry some day. The girl 
he would have married had he dared had disappeared in 
some mysterious way, and he didn't care now much who 
had him. So Claud Brettingham talked the matter over, 
and at last had worked himself into such a spirit of sub- 
missive martyrdom that he went to the altar on the 
appointed day with much the same feelings that must have 
animated the staunch old Protestants who took their burn- 
ings at Smithfield in such capital part. 

It wasn't a particularly happy marriage. Claud, having 



56 THREE BRASS BALLS. 



sacrificed himself, was inclined to wear his halo of martyr- 
dom a little too conspicuously, and Eleanor, who really 
didn't think it was such a terrible ordeal to be married to 
her, felt piqued and spiteful. She had discovered that with 
a very little effort she could love her husband passionately, 
and this added fuel to the fire. If he was careless and 
distant, she was cold and haughty. If he took no interest 
in her pursuits, she ignored his altogether. 

Once the)'' had a vulgar quarrel, just like common people 
have, and Claud told her he had never loved her ; that the 
only woman he had ever loved wasn't an heiress or a beauty 

"Some vulgar girl," thought Mrs. Brettingham. "I'm 
sure it's a pity he didn't marry her." 

Thinking about this vulgar girl — she was quite sure she 
was vulgar : red cheeks, golden hair, and no h's to speak 
of — she became curious about her. 

Claud was going out of town for three or four days. Mrs. 
Brettingham gave him a parting shot. 

If you should meet this young — person, that you talk of 
sometimes, you'll let her know you're married now, of 
course? " 

Claud smiled. It wasn't an amiable smile at all. 

" I shall not meet her. She disappeared long before I 
married you." 

" How romantic ! Well, I suppose you didn't murder her." 

Claud bit his lip, bowed to his wife, and went out of the 
house. When he got into the hansom that stood at the 
door he kicked his hatbox. His wife's remark had annoyed 
him very much. 

" Poor Daisy ! " he muttered ; " if I'd had the pluck to be 
a man and behave properly to you, I should be a deuced 
sight happier than I am now, I dare say." 



A COLD LOCKET 



57 



Captain Brettingham did not find matters improved on 
his return home. Eleanor was deeply wounded, for she 
was really in love with her husband. To hide her secret 
she emphasised her expressions of indifference till they 
became those of repugnance, and war breaking out at a 
time when matters were at their worst, the Captain ex- 
changed into a regiment going on active service, bade his 
wife farewell, apologised to her for any lack of courtesy he 
might have shown, hoped to find her in good health on his 
return, and went over the seas to South Africa. 

Eleanor held up her face to his in the hall as he stood 
ready to start, and he kissed her. It was on her tongue 
then to cry out how she loved him. How, if he would only 
be gentler with her and a little kind, she would love him as 
never woman had loved him yet. But his kiss was cold, and 
the warm words were frozen on her lips. 

She let him go — let him go with her heart yearning 
towards him; she let him go believing he was cold and 
cruel. And now he was dead. O how she had hoped that 
he would return to her, and then she might tell him all and 
win his love. She had pictured the meeting, the little story 
that she would sob out upon his breast, and then the bright 
happy days in store for them when all was mutual con- 
fidence and love. 

The light was crushed out of her life for ever now. 
Henceforth she had to bear a double load of sorrow. She 
grieved that he had died far away from her in a savage 
land, and she grieved that he had died knowing not what a 
wealth of love her heart had stored for him. 

The days and the weeks went by, and time's hand 
softened the blow, but the bitter memory of the past 
haunted the young widow in her lonely house. She wanted 



58 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

employment, occupation, something to divert her attention 
from the one gloomy thought. At last she decided that a 
charitable life would suit her best. Claud Brettingham's 
wife ere her mourning was two months old joined a 
Protestant sisterhood whose special mission it is to nurse the 
sick. The order involves no resignation of the world, no vows, 
and no conspicuous garb. But the very nature of its duties 
hinders the frivolous and the insincere from joining it. 

So the beautiful Mrs. Brettingham disappeared from the 
scene, and Sister Eleanor became famous as a gentle nurser 
of the suffering poor. 

3(C 5j» 5(» JJC 5J* 

In the side streets of Soho there are many grimy old 
houses — houses that have known better days. They are 
dirty and old and ugly now, and they stand and frown at 
you, and seem to say, " Why can't we tumble down and 
die ? Why are we brought to shame in our old age, we 
who were once run after by the rich and the great?" 
There are broad staircases in many of these houses, and 
large rooms, rooms where in the days of powder and patch 
beauty and gallantry danced many a minuet — rooms where 
beau and belle flirted and gossiped, where (ans were 
waved and snuffboxes tapped while scandal passed from lip 
to lip, where they gambled and drank and made merry in 
those bad, wicked old times which the parrots of our era 
call the " good old days." 

At the door of one of the dingiest and dirtiest of these 
houses a lady in deep black stands waiting admission. 

She has knocked loudly at the door, but no one has 
answered her. Presently a gentleman in a slouch hat and 
a seedy velvet coat comes across the road, pickino- his way 
through the mud gingerly, for he is in his slippers. 



A GOLD LOCKET 59 

Arrived safely on the kerb, slippers and all, the gentle- 
man wipes his mouth with the back of his hand, gives a 
loving glance at the word " absinthe " in the window of the 
public-house he has just quitted, and steps politely past 
the waiting lady, pushes the door open, then bows and 
waits for her to enter. 

" Madame is coming in ? " 

" Oh, thank you. Can you tell me if this is where 
Madame Obert lives ? " 

"Top floor, madame." 

The lady bows and passes on. The gentleman in the 
slippers looks after her and mutters to himself that she is 
belle femme. What wants she with the little Obert? 

It is a strange house, this grimy den in Soho. It is a 
chapel of ease to the Tower of Babel. Up and down the 
dirty broad staircases from night to morning go weary feet 
that have trodden many a foreign land ere they drifted to 
the mother of cities. The gentleman of the slippers is a 
Communist exile, devoted to his country and absinthe. He 
employs his leisure in writing political pamphlets which are 
never published, and his working hours in painting panels 
for the cabinet-makers. On the second floor live a German 
waiter and his wife, above them an Italian family who are 
mysteriously connected with the manufacture of barometers. 
There are also in the house a Pole, who is a Prince, and 
lives on a long white beard and his title, and an old French 
lady, who keeps cats and a diary, and is some day going to 
publish a secret history of Napoleon III. which will set the 
Seine on fire. 

And up at the top, where the stairs are narrowest, and 
where the dirt-encrusted skylight sheds the faintest, 
yellowest gleam of day, lives Madame Obert, the young 



6o THREE BRASS BALLS. 



English widow of the French gentleman who died abroad. 
Madame Obert does not live alone ; she has her little boy 
with her. He is three, with the flaxen hair and the blue 
eyes of the Saxon and as bonny an English face as any of 
those that made the clerical gentleman of Early English 
history perpetrate a bad Latin pun. 

Claud Obert was not with his mother now. The kind 
Italian woman had taken him to be with her children, and 
he found endless delight in the quicksilver that Carlo 
Manzoni, the old lady's son, put in the little barometers, 
Claud knew that his poor mamma was ill, and that he must 
not shout or stamp his little feet about in the passages, so 
he sat and watched the big brown Carlo working and 
stroking his fierce moustaches, and was quiet and good. 

The lady in black reached the top floor, and weary and 
out of breath knocked at the half-opened door. 

A faint voice bade her come in. 

She entered and looked around the room. 

It was a small, low room, but clean and neat as weak 
hands could keep it. It was a little untidy now, for the 
weak hands could do no work. Madame Obert lay on the 
little bed, her poor face white as the pillow beneath her 
head. 

The lady went across the room with a soft step, and sal 
down by the sufferer's side. 

" Have you been ill long, my poor child ?" she asked. 

The dull eyes looked eagerly in the face of the questioner. 
The voice was so kind and gentle it sent a thrill of pleasure 
to the listener's heart at once. 

" Oh yes, madam, I have been ill for many months, and 
now I am so weak I can no longer move." 

" You must not call me madam, my poor child. I am 



A COLD LOCKET Ci 

Sister Eleanor. I am come to be with you, and nurse you 
till you are strong again." 

" Oh, how good. How did you know I was ill? Who 
sent you to me?" 

" The people in this house know of our society. They 
came to us and told us that you were poor and friendless 
and sick. The poor and friendless and sick are our patients." 

"And you will stay with me and talk to me? Oh, how 
shall I thank you ? " 

" By lying still, talking little, and getting well. That is 
our reward : to see our patients well again." 

"Ah, madam — pardon me. Ah, Sister, God is very good 
to put it into the hearts of ladies like you to devote yourselves 
to poor creatures like us." 

Sister Eleanor hushed her patient and then tidied up the 
little room. With quick, skilful hands she rapidly reduced 
everything to order, and then she came again and sat by the 
patient's bedside. Presently the doctor came, the doctor of 
the society; he examined the patient, wrote a prescription, 
and gave the Sister her instructions. 

" Take care of her," he said ; " keep her quiet, and we'll 
have her well in a month. She's been fretting about 
something." 

In the evening a porter brought the Sister a camp 
bedstead and all her things, and there she was installed as 
nurse to Madame Obert, who had nothing to do but be still 
and get well. 

About seven came a knock at the door. It was Signora 
Manzoni with Claud. He had come to say good night to his 
mamma. The child came in on tiptoe, led by the good 
Italian dame, then he ran softly to his mamma and she put 
her weak arms round him and kissed him passionately, 



62 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

Then Sister Eleanor held out her arms to him. 

" Will you not kiss poor mamma's nurse?" she said. 

The boy turned his handsome face and toddled towards 
her. 

She lifted him on her knee. 

" And what's your name, darling?" she said, stroking his 
flaxen ringlets. 

" Peese my name 's Tlaud Obert." 

Claud ! For a moment Sister Eleanor forgot herself. A 
spasm of pain passed across her face, and she put her hand 
to her heart. Then with a sudden movement she clasped 
the child to her breast, and her tears trickled down upon 
his little face, upturned in astonishment. 

The emotion was over in a minute. She put the child 
gently down, and motioned the signora to take him from 
the room. 

She explained to the wondering patient, who had been a 
silent spectator of the scene, that someone who had been 
very dear to her had been named Claud, and it had revived 
old memories. 

The days passed on, and under Sister Eleanor's careful 
nursing Madame Obert grew rapidly better. 

The two women were great friends from the first. The 
Sister took great interest in her delicate, refined patient, 
and little by little she learned her story. She confided one 
night to her that the name she bore was false ; that there 
was a mystery about her life. She told her sympathising 
listener how she had loved not wisely but too well • how 
the man she adored had promised to marry her when 
certain family scruples had been overcome; and how, trusting 
him blindly, looking upon him as one who could not lie she 
had lived with him as his wife. And then one cruel day 



A GOLD LOCKET 63 

some months before his child was born, she had seen in the 
papers that he was engaged to marry a rich and beautiful 
lady, and then she had taken her things and gone away 
without a word, vowing he should never see her nor hear 
of her again. Since then she had earned her living by 
giving cheap \essons in music, and teaching English to the 
foreigners in Soho who could afford sixpence for a lesson 
now and then. That is how she came to be living in the 
quarter. 

Eleanor heard her story, but it was told a little at a time 
and with many interruptions, and she was not quite sure 
what all of it was about, for when Madame Obert was talk- 
ing her thoughts were often far away. 

One day when the patient could sit up she asked for a 
little box to be given her from the drawers. She opened 
it and drew out the little odds and ends. Sister Eleanor 
noticed among them a pawn-ticket. She was too familiar 
with the homes of the poor and needy not to know one by 
sight in a minute. 

Madame Obert noticed the look of her nurse. 

" Ah," she said with a sigh ; " it was a bitter day when I 
had to part with this." She held the ticket up, and Sister 
Eleanor saw that it was for a gold locket, and that it had 
been pawned for two pounds. 

" It was last winter it went, when I was very poor and 
there was no money here at all, and no one to take lessons. 
I was ill, too, and couldn't go out. The signora down 
stairs took it for me and got the money, for I sorely needed 
it. But it was his last present, and I was weak and worried 
at the time, and confused, and in my confusion I forgot, 
when it was too late, that his portrait was in it. And 
now," she added with a sigh, " I fear I shall never see it 



64 THREE BRASS BALLS. 



again. I am so poor, and now that I cannot work I shall 
have all the back rent to make up. O my poor lost love!" 

The weakness of her long illness was still upon her, and 
she broke down and sobbed. 

Sister Eleanor bent down and soothed her. " Come, 
come," she said, " don't cry like that. You are not poor, 
and you won't have any rent to pay yet. Come, cheer up. 
You are on the books of our society, you know, and we 
shall see you through." 

The poor creature looked up and smiled through her 
tears. 

"And more than that, if you give me the ticket I'll send 
and take the locket out for you now — there ! " 

Madame Obert could hardly believe her ears. 

" O, Sister ! " she cried — " No, no ! it would be imposing 
on your goodness." 

" Nonsense, child ! Some day I will tell you my story 
J am rich, and have nothing to do with my money, only to 
benefit my fellow-creatures." 

The Sister took the ticket from the yielding fingers of 
its owner, then went down stairs and gave three sove- 
reigns to the young Giuseppe Manzoni, promising him a 
shilling for himself if he brought the locket and the ri<dit 
change. 

Giuseppe rushed off without waiting to put on his hat 
and presently came up to the room where the Sister sat 
with her patient. 

Sister Eleanor took the locket and handed it to Madame 
Obert. Little Claud was seated on the foot of his mother's 
bed nursing the signora's kitten. 

Madame Obert took the locket with tender reverence and 
kissed it. 



A GOLD LOCKET 65 

" O, Sister," she said, " you do not know how glad you 
have made me." 

She held the locket up with her thumb upon the spring. 

" Now you shall see the man I loved — the man who 
deceived me and married a rich lady — the father of my little 
Claud." 

She pressed the spring and the locket flew open, and 
Sister Eleanor saw the handsome face of her dead husband, 
Claud Brettingham. 

***** 

There is a charming little cottage at Richmond, near the 
river, where the passers-by often stop in the summer weather 
to admire the climbing roses and the sweet honeysuckle, the 
old-fashioned marigolds, and all the flowery wealth of an 
English garden glowing in the sun. And sometimes they see 
a little lad with flaxen hair and blue eyes trip down the path 
with merry shouts, chasing a butterfly from bloom to bloom. 
Then a delicate-looking lady with a sweet face — a face all 
the sweeter for the tinge of sadness that o'ershadows it — 
will look lovingly from the window and call anxiously to him 
not to run and get hot in the sun ; and sometimes the little 
lad waits at the open gate, and, shading his eyes with his 
hands, looks eagerly up the road. 

Presently he espies a tall, handsome lady in deep black. 
Then he claps his little hands, and crying, " Aunt Eleanor 
— Aunt Eleanor!" runs towards her and leaps into her arms 
to be smothered with kisses. 

Sister Eleanor she is still to all but Claud. He is specially 
privileged to call her aunt. She has taken a strange fancy 
to her late patient. She has bought this little cottage as an 
investment for her money, she says. Madame Obert must 
oblige her by living in it to take care of it, as she cannot 



66 THREE BRASS BALLS. 



leave London and her nursing. Madame Obert must also 
be handsomely paid for her custodianship, and must keep a 
servant, and so Madame Obert finds life very different from 
what it was in the old days at the grimy Soho lodging-house. 

Claud Obert will be rich some day, though he does not 
know it, for Sister Eleanor has left all her money between 
him and the society of which she is a Sister. 

She knows now the story of her husband's lost love, and 
her woman's heart has room still to pity the faithful girl 
whose pride waited for no explanation, but bade her leave 
his side at once. 

Knowing all now, and looking back upon the past with 
feelings chastened by time and sorrow, she can find no 
nobler way of honouring the dear memory of her lost lord 
than by saving the woman he deserted and cherishing the 
child he never knew. 

She is a constant visitor to the villa at Richmond, and 
there is one thing she never fails to do — that is, to open the 
gold locket that hangs from Madame Obert's neck and gaze 
at the portrait within. 

She says she does it to see if Claud is growing like his 
father. 



Pledge VI. 
A DRESS SUIT. 

" SIMPLE SIMON'S at it agin," growled Mrs. Bulgruddery; 
" he's a-stompin' up and down and a-howlin' and a-roarin' 
like mad. Pat, go up and tell him to howd his row." 

Pat, like a dutiful husband, did as he was bidden. He 
went up the crazy stairs of the house in Leather-lane where 
he lodged, and yelled out, " Be quiet, will ye ? We can't 
get a wink o' sleep." 

It was just ten in the morning, and although Leather- 
lane houses are not expected to be particularly quiet at any 
time, yet this one was an exception. It was rather a 
superior house. There were in it a working man and his 
wife, and a family of french polishers, the proprietor of a 
happy family and a gentleman in the bill-sticking line, three 
or four young men who went to " business " on the average 
quite twice a week, and Mr. and Mrs. Pat Bulgruddery, a 
highly-respectable Irish couple, who were the proprietors of 
a very flourishing early coffee-stall. 

At ten nearly everyone was out except Mr. and Mrs. 
Bulgruddery, who came home about eight from their nightly 
labours and retired to rest to recruit. 

But of late Simple Simon, the gentleman who occupied 
a little room just above their heads, had also taken to 
remain indoors in the daytime — not, alas ! to sleep, but to 
be very wide awake. 

On this especial morning he was so dreadfully noisy, 

E 2 



68 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

pacing up and down, shrieking and shouting, that Mrs. B : 
could stand it no longer, but dispatched her better half with 
the polite message which Pat duly delivered. 

" Howd yer row, will yer? How's onyboddy to sleep 
wid yer blessed Saturdaynailer a-goin' on like this ? " 

Pat was fond of long words. He picked them up from 
his customers. Old University men with no boots to 
mention, ripe scholars with a penny to last them four-and- 
twenty hours, starving and blighted geniuses, broken-down 
spendthrifts, victims of misfortune and merciless disaster — 
all the flotsam and jetsam of the mighty city — these were 
among the customers who sought the warmth of the little 
fire and a cup of the scalding hot liquor in the long and 
lonely watches of the night at Pat Bulgruddery's coffee- 
stall. 

Pat's classical expression had no effect on the person it 
was hurled at. 

"What, yer won't — won't yer? Now, I say, Simon, 
look here, ye know ; my old 'oman's dead beat, and she 
ain't had a wink. I appeals to you as one gent to another 
—stow it ! " 

As he finished this appeal Pat Bulgruddery stepped into 
the apartment of his fellow-lodger, and then started back 
in astonishment. 

The room was bare of furniture, save a straw pallet, a 
broken chair, and an old deal box, which served as a table. 
In the centre stood the long cadaverous figure of Simple 
Simon, the jest and butt of half the street boys of London. 
He was about fifty-five years of age, six feet high, and 
piteously thin. He had won the sobriquet of Simple Simon 
from his habit of talking to himself and suddenly bursting 
out with addresses to imaginary people. He had also 



A DRESS SUIT 69 

certain other eccentricities of demeanour which were con- 
sidered to justify the title. 

His calling was peculiar and objectionable. He dressed 
rabbit-skins for the furriers, and slander whispered that 
some of his rabbits were cats. But on this occasion he 
had not been dressing either rabbits or cats, but him- 
self, and that was the reason of Mr. Bulgruddery's 
astonishment. 

There in the centre of the room stood Simple Simon, not 
in the old filthy garb that he ordinarily wore, but washed 
and clean, and in full evening dress. Mr. Bulgruddery was 
not in the habit of taking in the Gazette of Fashion, nor 
was he so well versed in the varying cuts of a dress coat as 
Messrs. Poole or Cutler, but he knew quite enough to see 
that the dress suit of Simple Simon was twenty years old if 
it was a day. The shirt, too, with its elegant ruffles, was 
yellow with age. 

The transformation was so complete that for a moment 
Pat thought he must be mistaken in the man. He gave a 
peculiar whistle, and remained transfixed to the spot. 

Simple Simon, taking no notice of the intruder, con- 
tinued his performance. 

" Ladies and gentlemen," he said, holding a broken 
teacup in his hand, " this is the twentieth anniversary of my 
wedding day. For the cordial manner in which you have 
proposed the health of myself and my dear wife, I thank you ; 
our children thank you. You behold our happy home. 
Ha, ha ! Our happy home. She is a noble woman, ladies 
and gentlemen, is my dear wife, and I am proud of her. 
God bless you all ! " 

The imaginary guests addressed evidently here stood up 
and waved their pocket-handkerchiefs, for Simon leapt on 



7Q THREE BRASS BALLS. 



the top of the box and hoorayed lustily, as though he were 
leading the party. 

He thrust his hand into the pocket of his coat and drew 
out a handkerchief. 

It was a woman's handkerchief, a delicate little toy, edged 
with the finest lace, and marked in raised silk letters in the 
corner, " Marian." 

Simon pulled the handkerchief from his pocket and was 
about to wave it, when his eyes fell upon it, and he saw 
what it was. 

He looked at it for a moment silently, then pressed it 
passionately to his lips and burst into tears. 

Mr. Pat Bulgruddery, astonished at the whole scene, and 
quite at a loss to know what to make of it, beat a rapid 
retreat, and informed the partner of his joys that that there 
Simple Simon was gone stark staring mad in a suit of swell 
togs. 

***** 

Simple Simon made no further noise. 

Since he found the handkerchief he had not paced the room 
or made any more speeches. 

Presently he roused himself from his reverie. 

" It is time," he muttered ; " it is time for me to be going." 

Simon took up his poor old hat, brushed it round, and 
made it look as respectable as he could, and then sallied 
forth into the street. 

The appearance of Simple Sin ,n in evening dress in the 
street was the signal for the mos.. intense excitement in the 
colony 

At first the people hardly knew him, but gradually the 
eccentric dresser of rabbit-skins betrayed himself to the 
puzzled on-lookers. 



A DRESS SUIT 71 



The men and women shrieked with laughter, and the boys 
pelted him. 

" Hullo, Simple Simon ! goin' to have yer fortergraff 
took?" " Goin' to see your gal, Simon?" " Has the Queen 
arksed yer to go to Buckinem Pallis to brekfus ?" 

Simon took no notice of the local wits, but hurried along, 
his strange costume everywhere attracting attention. Now 
and then a stone narrowly missed his hat, and an occasional 
handful of mud hardly improved the appearance of his 
coat. 

But all things have an end, and so had Simon's persecu- 
tion. After he had cleared the locality in which he was 
known he was allowed to go unmolested. 

It struck eleven as he made his way across Oxford-street, 
and in a few minutes he was standing with a crowd outside 
St. George's, Hanover-square. 

There was a wedding party expected shortly, and the 
British sightseer had assembled in force. 

Simon edged his way as near to the red baize pathway as 
he could, and waited with the rest. 

The people noticed him and chaffed him. It was 
suggested that he was the bridegroom trying to hide, or that 
he was one of the guests, who'd hired his clothes at the old 
curiosity shop. 

But presently the bridal party arrived, and then Simon 
was forgotten. The guests drove up and passed into the 
church. The bride's mother was a beautiful lady, everybody 
said. Everybody knew she was the bride's mother from the 
family laundress, Mrs. Jones, who stood among the crowd 
and explained everything aloud to the female friend who 
accompanied her. 

" Ah, poor thing ! she's had a lot o' trouble, she has," 



72 THREE BRASS BALLS. 



said the laundress, as the stately lady passed up the steps. 
" Had a bad husband." 

" Is he here? " said the friend. 

" Here ! Lor' bless you, no ; he ain't been heard of for 
nearly twenty years. Drunk hisself to death, they suppose, 
years ago." 

" Lor' ! And is that his daughter that's being married?" 

" Yes. She was a baby when he went away. He used to 
get mad drunk, and the poor lady went in terror of her life. 
She was a baronet's daughter, and her friends were very 
rich, and they were always opposed to the marriage, for he 
was only a poor gentleman when she took up with him, and 
her friends made her get a separation — leastways so the 
story goes." 

" And quite right too," said Mrs. Jones's friend. 

"Yes ; only she fretted after him when it was all done, 
for when he wasn't on one of his mad drinkin' bouts he was 
very kind to her, and she was fond of him, there's no doubt ; 
but after the separation she never heard nothing of him, and 
it's supposed he went abroad and drunk hisself to death." 

Simple Simon stood quite close to the laundress, and 
heard her story, which was only interrupted by the arrival 
of the bride and the bridesmaids. 

She was a beautiful creature, the bride, and she won the 
admiration of the crowd at once. 

Simple Simon looked after her eagerly as she entered the 
church from which she was presently to emerge a wife. 
Then he waited patiently with the crowd till the bridal party 
should return. 

*t* y y ?ic «a» 

The service was over and the doors were fluno- wide open. 
The bride and bridegroom entered their carriage and were 



A DRESS SUIT 73 



driven off; then the relations and friends poured out, and 
there was quite a large crowd on the pavement, and much 
shouting for carriages and general confusion. 

As the bride's mother was about to enter her brougham 
the horse began to rear. The lady had one foot on the 
step, when the beast gave an angry plunge, and was about 
to dart forward. 

" Take care, ma'am," cried the footman, and at that 
moment a strange figure sprang to the horse's head and 
seized it. 

The terrified animal, alarmed at the apparition, plunged 
fearfully, and, dashing forward, struck the man down, and 
amid the cries of the bystanders the wheels went over him. 

The bride's mother, who had taken her seat, gave a cry 
of horror. The horse had been stopped, and was still 
enough now, but there in the roadway lay the poor fellow 
who had thought to do her a service. He was covered with 
mud, and bleeding. 

Recovering herself a little, the lady bade her footman 
remain behind and see how the poor fellow was, and then 
ordered the coachman to drive on, for the wedding party 
would be waiting the hostess. 

The policeman picked up the fallen man. 

" Does anyone know who he is?" asked the footman. 

At that moment Pat Bulgruddery pushed his way through 
the crowd. 

" Yes, I do," he said ; " he's Simple Simon, and he lives 
in Leather-lane." 

The footman obtained all he wanted of Pat, who had 
followed his strange fellow-lodger that morning out of 
curiosity, and then returned to his mistress with the in- 
formation that the man she had run over was an eccentric 



74 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

dresser of rabbit-skins who lived in Leather-lane, and was 
called Simple Simon. 

Simple Simon, who had never opened his eyes or spoken 
a word, was put into a cab and taken to the hospital. 
***** 

A week later a lady called at the hospital to inquire for 
the man who had been run over outside St. George's, 
Hanover-square. 

They told her that his ribs had been fractured, but that he 
was going on as well as could be expected. 

She would like so much to see him, to tell him how sorry 
she was. He was trying to do her a service when it 
happened. " Might she see him ? " 

Simple Simon's face was turned away as the lady entered 
the room. The nurse came up to his bedside and told him 
that a lady had come to see him. 

The man knew who it was, and still kept his face turned 
away. The lady sat down in a chair by the bedside. 

" My poor fellow," she said, in a soft, gentle voice that 
thrilled through him like music, " I am so very sorry for this 
accident. Is there anything I can do for you ?" 

Still with his face obstinately turned away, the patient 
answered her in a whisper. 

" There are other patients in the ward," he said. " Don't 
cry out if I tell you a secret." 

A secret ! What did the man mean ? Ah, of course, the 
poor fellow was not right in his head. 

" Tell me your secret, my good man." 

She expected to hear that he was the rightful King of 
England, or something of the sort. 

Simple Simon slowly turned his head on the pillow till the 
light fell full upon his upturned face. 



A DRESS SUIT 75 



Then with trembling lips he uttered the one word, 
" Marian." 

In spite of a supreme effort, a little cry burst from the 
woman's lips. Her face went ashen white, and she gasped 
for breath. 

Husband and wife had met at last. It was the bride's 
father who had been crushed under the carriage- wheels of 
his wife on his daughter's wedding day. 

***** 
On every visiting day the grand lady came to the hospital 
and sat for a certain time by Simple Simon's bed. Little by 
little his story came out. When her friends had forced the 
separation on, and offered him an allowance, his pride had 
rebelled, and he had determined they should never hear of 
him again. 

He confessed his faults ; he knew that when the terrible 
drinking fits were on him he was a maniac, but none the less 
her quiet acquiescence in his sentence had cut him to the 
quick. 

" Richard, what could I do ? It was best for both our 
sakes — best for the child's sake." 

" Aye, it was best for you and her, but not for me. You 
severed the last tie that bound me to respectability. After 
the separation deeds were signed I plunged into the wildest 
dissipation. I brought myself to the brink of the grave, but 
I determined you should never again be disgraced by any act 
of mine. I changed my name. When all my money was 
gone, I herded with the poor and wretched, and toiled for 
my daily bread and drink at a filthy trade." 
" Poor Richard ! I thought you were dead." 
" Yes, poor Richard indeed. I sank to the very lowest 
depths of poverty and despair. I had little food ; all I 



76 THREE BRASS BALLS. 



earned I spent in drink — drink seemed to drown the sense 
of shame and degradation. Drunk, I made an idiot oi 
myself, and became a byword in the neighbourhood, a 
wretched drivelling fool for women to mock and boys to pelt 
and stone." 

The woman buried her face in her hands as though to 
shut out the sight. 

" Down in the den where I live they call me Simple 
Simon. When I am sober I work at my trade — I dress 
rabbit-skins for the furriers ; when I am drunk I roll about 
the streets in tatters, smothered with the filth that the boys 
hurl at me. I'm Simple Simon of Leather-lane ! " 

" O, Richard, this must never be again," wailed the 
agonised woman. " I am rich ; you have a right to the 
money, though you have never claimed it." 

" Money, Marian ! Do you think I would touch your 
money? Not I. Your grand people flung it in my face once 
that I married you for your gold. I think I've lived that lie 
down." 

" But, Richard, when you are well and can leave this 
place you will never go back to that — that horrible life ? " 

" God knows. I have fallen too low ever to rise again." 

Suddenly the lady appeared to remember something. 

" Tell me," she said ; "you weren't dressed in rags such 
as you describe on the day of my — of our daughter's 
wedding ? " 

" No. You didn't see how I was dressed then. You only 
saw something in the road covered with mud. Marian, I 
was dressed then exactly as I was dressed on the first 
anniversary of our wedding day — the night that I o- G t mad 
drunk and frightened you — the last night we were ever 
husband and wife." 



A DRESS SUIT 77 



" Richard ! " 

"That's been one of my crazes. I pawned that suit with 
everything else after the blow came. I pawned everything 
for drink. I let everything go but this, and this I have 
taken out every year and worn on the anniversary of 
our wedding day. That's one of my mad notions, you know. 
Our daughter was married on the anniversary of our wedding 
day — that's how I came to wear it then." 

"And if you are so poor, how do you get the money to 
redeem it, Richard ? " 

A smile passed over the man's face. 

" I starve for it for weeks, Marian. I pawn everything 
else I have in the world to get it out. I wouldn't let the 
anniversary of our wedding day pass without wearing it if I 
had to steal the money. I put it back the next day, and 
take my other things out. It's a rum notion, isn't it? I 
think I should like to be buried in that suit, Marian. Ha, 
ha ! " 

" Richard, this terrible comedy shall be played no longer. 
I will rescue you in spite of yourself. Things might be so 
different if you would only make the effort ! " 
She rose to go. He took her hand. 

" Marian, one word. I have told you the history of my 
life since our separation, but to all the world beside it is a 
secret. Remember that! To you I am alive; to our 
daughter I am dead. Promise ! " 

"Yes, for the present I promise, Richard. But there are 
brighter days in store, I hope, when no one need blush tc 
own kinship with you." 
The man shook his head. 
"Never." 

***** 



78 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

The weeks went by, and Simple Simon got better, and 
able to move about the hospital grounds. One day the lady 
called as usual and was informed that he had gone away of 
his own accord, saying he was quite well and didn't want to 
stay any longer. 

He had left no message, no trace of his whereabouts. His 
wife made every effort to find him, but all was in vain. He 
had been back to Leather-lane for his few belongings, and 
disappeared. 

One night in the winter, after the public-houses were 
closed and most of the revellers had passed away, Mr. and 
Mrs. Bulgruddery sat at their stall. The wind whistled 
round the corner, and the snow blew in the faces of the few 
benighted wayfarers with blinding force. The hot coffee 
steamed temptingly, but trade was slack. No one who 
could help it would stay in the streets such a night as this. 

Pat had snugged down in a corner of the stall out of the 
wind, and Mrs. B., pulling her shawl tightly round her, had 
shut her eyes for forty winks, when they were aroused by 
the banging of a cup in the saucer. 

" Hullo ! " said Pat. " Cup o' corfee, sir ? " 

Then he started back. There in front of him, in rags 
and tatters, the snow thick on his unkempt beard, and his 
face blue with the cold, stood Simon. 

" Why, blest if it ain't Simple Simon ! " said Pat. 

" Dear heart alive ! " exclaimed Mrs. B. ; " give him a 
cup o' corfee, Pat." 

" I didn't come for that," said Simple Simon, "but I did 
want you to do me a favour." He fumbled with his numbed 
fingers and drew a letter from his breast. 

" I want you to take this to-morrow to the address on 
it — it's the address of the lady that ran over me." 



A DRESS SUIT 



79 



" All right," said Pat. " I'll take it, mate, never fear." 
" Thank you. Good night — I'm going home." 
Pat looked after him. "Poor Simon," he said; "ain't 
he a wreck ! Wonder where his home is now ! " 

3J5 ?J* Jfm 2j£ 3(« 

" Marian, the time has come when I can ask you to do 
me a favour, because it will be the last. I've drunk away 
every farthing I have in the world. I'm homeless and 
penniless ; I shall die to-night. You will hear of me at the 

mortuary of parish. Enclosed is the ticket of my 

favourite suit. I want to be buried in it. Good-bye ; God 
bless you ! Richard." 

So ran the letter Pat Bulgruddery delivered to the rich 
lady. 

Simple Simon's last wish was obeyed, and he sleeps the 
last sleep in the suit that he prized for auld lang syne. He 
had no pauper's funeral, for in Nunhead Cemetery a marble 
stone records his name and the date of his death. 

Marian kept her unhappy husband's secret faithfully, and 
to this day his daughter never knew that the pauper who 
committed suicide one winter's night, and was found dead 
in his rags and tatters, was her father, Simple Simon, the 
rabbit-skin dresser. 



Pledge VII. 
A WEDDING RING. 

" No luck again to-day, Polly" 

Dave Heathcote took off his coat, and flung it on th^ 
dilapidated sofa of a shabby little front parlour in Lambeth, 
and then dropped into a rickety armchair with a deep sigh. 

Polly, like a dutiful little wife, came to comfort him. 

" Don't be downhearted, Dave, dear ; remember when 
things are at the worst they will mend." 

" Mend be " 

Polly put up her little hand, and clapped it on Dave's 
mouth just in time. 

" Now, don't be a cross old dear ; bear up and be a man. 
Look at me." 

Dave did look at her with his eyes very wide open, for 
Polly had darted to the middle of the room, and was dancing 
a breakdown which would have sent a sixpenny gallery 
wild with delight. 

" Very nice, my dear," said Dave with a sarcastic in- 
flection turned on full, "but you're performing to a bad 
house ; there's no money in it." 

Polly, out of breath, with a merry twinkle in her eyes, 
gasped out, " Oh, indeed, isn't there? " 

" Well, all I know." said her husband, "there wasn't any 
when I went out." 

" Ah, but I've been out too." 

Dave jumped up and caught his wife's arm : — 



A WEDDING RING. 81 



" By Jove, Polly, you don't mean to say you've got an 
engagement ? " 

" Yes, I do," answered Polly triumphantly. 

•' For both of us ? " 

" Yes, for both of us." 

Two minutes afterwards Mrs. Turvey, the landlady, 
opened the door and delivered a short speech. Was it 
decent for the parlours to be dancing Irish jigs and yelling 
like mad, disturbing the other lodgers ? 

Mrs. Turvey wasn't a bad sort, and Polly soon pacified 
her when she told her that the Irish jig was entirely due 
to the joy which she and her husband felt at having ob- 
tained an engagement at last, and the knowledge that they 
would soon be in a position to pay Mrs. Turvey all arrears. 

When the landlady had descended to her kitchen, Polly 
told Dave all about it ; how she had seen an advertisement 
in the Era in which a whole company was required, how 
she had gone to the address given and seen a nice gentle- 
man, who had told her how he was going to make a grand 
provincial tour, to commence at once, and he had further 
told her that she and her husband were just the people he 
wanted. 

" And the terms, Polly ? " asked Dave, anxiously. 

" First class ! We're to have five pounds a week each, 
and all our travelling expenses." 

No wonder Polly was overjoyed and danced break- 
downs. Why this was wonderful luck. She and Dave had 
been out of an engagement for months, and things had 
begun to look very desperate. 

They had a short London engagement at a theatre which 
opened gloriously. Such decorations, such luxuries — it was 
to be the talk of London. Unfortunately, all the specula- 



82 THREE BRASS BALLS. 



tor's capital had been spent in these luxuries, and after the 
first week, business being bad, only half salaries were forth- 
coming ; the second week the house was in Chancery, and 
the third it was shut. 

Dave and his wife had given up a safe provincial engage- 
ment to get a show in London, and it was a great dis- 
appointment to them. They couldn't go back to their old 
company, for their places were filled up. Dave had tried 
all the agencies, little and big, and paid as many fees as he 
could afford, but without success. 

They had no capital, and after the first month the shoe 
began to pinch. There was the rent to pay, and they had 
to live, and there was no money coming in. With terror 
Dave found that their wardrobe would have to go, and fare- 
well to provincial engagements if you haven't got a decent 
wardrobe. 

It was just when the clouds were blackest, and absolute 
misery was staring them in the face, that Polly — God bless 
her heart ! — went out and did in one morning what Dave 
had been trying to do for three months. 

Dave and Polly were " useful " folks. They could play 
Hamlet and Ophelia, and Romeo and Juliet, if Shakespeare 
was wanted, or they could make themselves generally useful 
in burlesque and opera bouffe. They had been members 
of provincial travelling and stock companies all their lives, 
and the members of such companies have to do a little of 
everything, and do it decently. 

Dave was about thirty-five, and Polly was two years 
younger. They were both born and bred to the stage, they 
fell in love on the stage, and it seemed quite unnatural to 
both of them that they could not be married on the stage as 
a sort of benefit performance. 



A WEDDING RING. 83 

Polly confessed to Dave that when he put the ring on 
and said, " I take thee," &c, she quite expected the pit and 
gallery to applaud, and he confessed to her that he'd studied 
the service just like he would a part. 

But there was nothing theatrical about their affection ; it 
was honest and tender and true, and Polly, with the war- 
paint off, was a sweet, loving little woman that would have 
been a blessing to any man's home. 

She was a blessing to Dave, and they sailed along life's 
river merrily enough till this London engagement upset 
everything, and for the first time since their marriage they 
were face to face with trouble. 

But this was all over now, for the morning after Polly's 
visit to the manager Dave went and saw him and signed 
the engagement, and in a week they were to open at the 
Theatre Royal, Swamperton. 

Now that they had got an engagement, Dave summoned 
up the courage to do what he had not dared to do before. 
He parted with such portion of their wardrobe as was not 
likely to be wanted until he had money to redeem it, and 
this, with a little pinching, got them free of Mrs. Turvey 
and left them their railway fare to Swamperton and a little 
over. Salaries and expenses only commenced from the 
first performance. 

It was all outlay at first, but what did that matter ? Fancy 
when the ten golden sovereigns came in weekly, how nice 
and comfortable they would be ! 

***** 

The first night at Swamperton was a great success. The 
house was crammed ; the company in high spirits. The 
manager was such a gentleman ; he had a big diamond 
ring on his finger, and he seemed so careless in the matter 

F 2 



84 THREE BRASS BALLS 

of expense that it was quite evident money was no object 
to him. 

He went to the best hotel in the town and lived like a 
prince. After the first performance he invited the gentle- 
men of the company to supper, and gave them champagne. 
Dave came home to the lodgings he had taken for the 
month they were to play in Swamperton and told Polly that 
he was a real swell, the manager was, and no humbug. 
He was going to make his company the talk of the pro- 
vinces. 

Polly clapped her hands, and whispered to Dave that now 
they would have a real chance of showing the big towns 
what they could do. " And the next time we go to 
London, Dave," she added, " we shall go with a big reputa- 
tion, and anybody will be glad to have us." 

Dave thought so too, but he didn't say much on the 
subject, for the champagne had been very plentiful and he 
was beginning to feel sleepy. 

***** 

The succeeding nights at Swamperton were not so good 
as the first. The house was only half full, and there were 
whispers that a good deal of paper was about. The manager, 
however, laughed when any of the company spoke of the 
bad business. He expected it ; he was prepared for it. He 
had taken a fair amount of hard cash, and if the first week 
or two was a loss it didn't matter. He had plenty of capital 
behind him. 

He spoke so cheerily that the company were quite 
cheerful too, and when Saturday morning came round 
and it was treasury, they all appeared at the theatre 
jubilant. 

Many of them were like Dave and Polly, they had been 



A WEDDING RING. 85 

out of engagements for some time, and treasury was a 
delightful novelty to them. 

The manager met them all bows and smiles. He was 
really very sorry he had forgotten to inform them before 
but treasury would be on Monday this time. It would be 
much more convenient to him, as he intended to have a 
gentleman specially to attend to the finances. He was 
coming on Monday, and if they did not mind he would 
prefer to leave it till he came. 

There was a little grumbling. It was rather inconvenient 
to some of the company, but the manager spoke so nicely, 
and explained to them his reasons so lucidly, that they 
gradually dispersed, not quite so happy, perhaps, as when 
they came, but still consoled with the idea that Monday was 
close at hand. 

Saturday was always the best night of the week at 
Swamperton, and this Saturday was no exception. The 
cheap parts of the house were crammed, and the audience 
was enthusiastic. Polly got a big call, and Dave was 
delighted. The manager shook hands with her that 
night, and congratulated her, and Dave declared he 
could hear her heart bumping with pride all the way 
home. 

Sunday was a quiet, happy day. Secure in the know- 
ledge that they were to have plenty of money on the 
morrow, Dave and Polly strolled into the country and had 
a little dinner at an inn. Then they strolled back, and 
found beauty in everything. The sky seemed bluer than 
they had ever known it before, and the birds sang just as if 
they knew to-morrow was treasury, and they were going to 
have ten golden pounds too. They sang so loudly and 
joyously that Polly thought it couldn't be wicked, or they 



86 THREE BRASS BALLS 

wouldn't do it, and so she sang too, as they strolled along 
the green lanes. 

O, that happy Sunday afternoon ! Dave Heathcote will 
never forget it — never, as long as he lives. 

They got home to their lodgings and had a nice quiet 
little tea, and Polly cooked two mushrooms she had picked 
by the way, and ate them all herself ; and Dave was an old 
goose and got sentimental in the twilight, and then he and 
Pollywentand stood at the windowandwatchedthesunfading 
from the sky and the darkness coming slowly over all. 

" How like some people's lives the twilight is, Polly," 
said Dave, thoughtfully. "The sun goes out, the darkness 
comes on, and " 

" And you're a dear old silly, and please don't give me 
the horrors. O, Dave, it's treasury to-morrow — let's have 
the candles." 

Polly pulled her husband's face aown and gave him two 
big kisses, and then the candles were lit. 

In the middle of the night Dave woke suddenly. Was it 
fancy, or did he hear someone calling him ? 

" Dave ! " 

He started up. It was the voice of his wife that lay by 
his side, but oh, so faint and low. 

" Dave, I feel so ill." 

Dave was frightened. His wife lay and moaned with 
pain, and he wondered what he had better do. 

" Dave, dear, I think you'd better go for a doctor, I'm in 
such dreadful pain." 

" My poor darling, whatever can it be ? " 

Dave was up quickly enough when he knew what to do, 
and he had his clothes on in no time. He had lit the 



A WEDDING RING. 87 



candle, and was alarmed at the expression of his wife's face. 
The illness was so sudden and mysterious he could not 
account for it. Bidding her be of good heart and he would 
be back with the doctor directly, he ran down the stairs 
and out into the street. 

It was three in the morning. Dave's road to the doctor's 
lay past the railway-station. There is a train from the 
North which reaches Swamperton soon after three, and the 
Swampertonians who have marketing business in London 
travel by it. As Dave passed the station the train was just 
due. There was a handful of people about, and Dave was 
surprised to see among them his manager, with a port- 
manteau in his hand. 

Where could he be going? He went close up to him 
and said, " Good morning." 

The manager started as if he had been shot, but he re- 
covered himself in a minute. 

" Hullo, Heathcote ! what brings you out this time of 
night ? " 

Dave told him. 

" Sorry for you," said the manager. " I shall be back in 
time for treasury. I return by the ten train with the new 
secretary." 

Dave gave a sigh of relief. He saw it all now. The 
manager was coming back with the new secretary. 

He bade him good morning, and hurried on to the 
doctor's. The doctor returned with him and saw Mrs. 
Heathcote. He shook his head, and his face was very grave. 
Then he asked her what she had been eating, and Dave told 
him about the mushrooms. 

" Ah," said the doctor, "that accounts for it." And then 
he told poor Dave that the mushroom she had eaten was 



88 THREE BRASS BALLS. 



probably the deadly Agaricus phalloides, so often mistaken 
for it, and that his wife was poisoned, and that her illness 
was serious. 

***** 

Dave went to treasury on Monday alone. He took with 
him the doctor's certificate to show the manager. Polly 
was weak and ill, and the doctor said it would be weeks 
before she would be strong enough to play. Dave was 
very down-hearted. It seemed such a pity just as they were 
on the hisfh road to fortune. 

When he got to the theatre the company had assembled. 
It was the first treasury, and they wanted the money badly. 
In many cases there were dear ones far away at home 
anxiously awaiting the promised remittance. There was a 
very pretty girl who played the ingenues, and she was 
terribly anxious for her little pittance. She had a poor old 
widowed mother in London, whose very daily bread de- 
pended on her scant earnings. She knew that unless she 
sent money to-day the poor invalid might have to go 
dinnerless to-morrow. 

As the appointed hour struck, and no manager and no 
secretary appeared, the poor players began to look terribly 
anxious, and their faces grew longer and longer. 

They talked the matter over, and Dave related the in- 
cident of the early morning. Then a great fear fell upon 
them all. God help them if their suspicions were true, and 
they had indeed fallen into the trap of a swindling manager. 

Alas ! their fears were realised. Gradually the terrible 
truth came out. The man had paid nobody ; not even his 
hotel bill had been settled. He had taken the whole of the 
receipts for the week and bolted. 

He was one of the class who live upon the poor struggling 



A WEDDING RING. 89 



players, who entice them far from their homes to country 
places, and then leave them penniless and wretched in a 
strange town to settle their bills and get back again as best 
they may. 

Dave Heathcote hardly knew how he got back to his 
lodgings. What was he to do in a strange place, without 
money, and with a sick wife? 

When he got home he found Polly worse. The doctor 
had been again, and left a message with the landlady. The 
patient must have delicacies, and be kept up, as the shock 
to the system had been great. 

Delicacies ! Where were they to be got ? Dave was 
almost beside himself. Why, he hadn't the money to pay 
the week's rent that was due. How could he keep the 
terrible secret? Polly guessed it in his white face; she 
gathered it from the incoherent words which fell from his 
lips. Over the heartrending agony of that dark hour I draw 
the veil. 

***** 

The news of the fiasco at the theatre travelled fast. Some 
of the poor people were turned out of their lodgings at 
once. There was no chance of their paying, and they had 
to go, to make room for those who could. 

Dave's landlady wanted him to turn out there and then, 
but he refused. To take his wife out ill as she was would 
kill her. Besides, where were they to go ? To the work- 
house ? 

That afternoon the local pawnbroker did a roaring trade 
with the company. Everything that could be spared went 
to pay the rents and enable the poor victims to get back to 
their homes. 

Dave's scanty wardrobe, and his wife's as well, went at 



qo THREE BRASS BALLS. 



once, and the landlady, mollified by a small payment, gave 
Mrs. Heathcote another week to get well. 

But the trouble and the illness together had made 
recovery a difficult matter. At the end of the week Polly 
was worse, and Dave was in despair. 

The doctor came in one afternoon and ordered her brandy 
at once — she was sinking. Brandy ! Poor Dave, where 
was he to get it ? Brandy might save her life yet, the 
doctor told him. " A little and often " — those were bis 
words. What could he do ? He hadn't a shilling in the 
place. There was nothing to pawn. His wife lay in a fitful 
slumber, her white, thin hand outside the coverlet. Her 
fingers had grown so thin her wedding ring was loose. 

The gleam of the gold caught Dave's eye as he sat by her 
bedside, and a sudden thought flashed upon him. 

Furtively, as though he had been a thief, he stretched out 
his hand and gently drew the golden circlet from her finger. 
The perspiration stood on his forehead, and his hands 
trembled. 

At last he had it off and in his possession, and still she 
slept. 

He crept softly out of the room and went over the road 
to the pawnbroker's. It was a good thick ring — he re- 
membered the happy night they had chosen it from the 
jeweller's stock — and they lent him seven and sixpence 
on it. 

Then he bought a bottle of brandy and went back to his 
lodgings. 

Polly still slept. She was breathing so softly and gently, 
and her pale cheeks had a hectic flush on them. The 
doctor said sleep would do her good. He would give her 
the brandy when she woke. 



A WEDDING RING. 91 

The landlady came and knocked gently at the door. 
There were some gentlemen down stairs who wished to see 
Mr. Heathcote. Dave went down stairs. 

He had carried the ticket for the ring in his hand with the 
brandy. He hardly knew what he was doing, for trouble 
and want and long vigils had unnerved him. He left the 
brandy and the ticket together on the little table by the 
bedside, and went down stairs in a half-dazed condition, 
wondering who could want to see him. 

They were some gentlemen of the town, who wished to 
organise a benefit for the players who still remained in 
Swamperton unable to get home. 

They wished Dave to put them in possession of all the 
facts he knew. 

The conversation lasted half an hour in the landlady's 
parlour, and the gentlemen left Dave happier than he had 
been for some time. Their scheme was good, and they 
promised him assistance at once. Dave was very grateful, 
and he went up stairs with a swelling heart. Hope was his 
at last. 

He entered the room with a light step and went to the 
patient's side. Something in her look alarmed him. The 
eyes were close shut, the hectic flush had gone, and the face 
was of a leaden hue. 

He ran to the top of the stairs and called for the landlady. 

They lifted poor Polly up and put brandy to her lips and 
bathed her brow, but she did not open her eyes. 
She was in a dead faint. 

Dave bade the landlady stay by her, and rushed off 
terrified for the doctor. 

When they returned Polly lay as still as ever — her 
breathing was barely perceptible. 



92 THREE BRASS BALLS. 



"She's fainted," said the doctor; "she's had a sudden 
shock or undergone some extra exertion." 

Dave assured the doctor that she had not. 

The doctor put his hand on her heart. Then he turned 
to Dave and said kindly, " My poor fellow, prepare yourself 
for the worst." 

Dave knelt by the little bed like a man in a dream, and 
prayed to God to spare his darling's life. God in His great 
wisdom refused his prayer. In an hour Polly Heathcote 
was at rest for ever. 

Dave took the dead hand in his agony to press it to 
his lips. It was the ringless left. Ashe lifted it reverently, 
he noticed that it was clenched, and that the dead fingers 
held something in their cold clutch. 

Gently he unloosed them, and started back with a cry. 

In the poor dead woman's hand lay the pawn-ticket of her 
wedding ring. 

She had woke during Dave's absence, and found it, and 
the sudden revelation of the last sacrifice to which 
destitution had reduced them had caused the poor feeble 
heart to break. 

5JC 3(C 3JJ 5(C JJC 

Polly Heathcote lived and died not in story but in fact. 
Dave Heathcote, her husband, drags out a weary existence 
still, his heart buried in his young wife's grave. He is one 
of the stock company of a little theatre in the North, 
without hope and without ambition. The swindling manager 
is doing well. I sat next him not a week since in the stalls 
of a West-end house, and the brilliancy of his diamond ring 
dazzled me. I see by the advertisements in a theatrical 
newspaper that he is specially organising a first-class 
company for a provincial tour. Poor company ! 



Pledge VIII. 
A DIAMOND NECKLACE. 

" FATHER'S late," said Mrs. Alabaster, as she glanced 
uneasily at the Dutch clock; "father's dreadful late. I 
hope nothing ain't happened to him." 

" P'r'aps he's gone a-slidin' in the Park," suggested 
Master Jemmy Alabaster, aged nine, who was amusing him- 
self by picking small pieces out of the muffins that stood, 
buttered and ready, in the fender. 

"Gone a what?" said Mrs. Alabaster, looking at her son 
and suddenly discovering his occupation. "Jem, you 
young varmint, leave off picking them muffins, do ! I don't 
know where you gets your nasty ways from, I'm sure. Gone 
a slidin', indeed! The father of a respectable family, as 
have come home to his tea at 6.30 regular from the first day 
he vowed to do so at the altar, as is fifteen years ago, gone 
slidin' ! Jem Alabaster, you're a fool ! " 

Jem Alabaster subsided, but still he felt his supposition 
was quite natural. Hadn't it been freezing for a week, and 
weren't the parks crowded with skaters and sliders ? 
Wouldn't he just go sliding, only his mother wouldn't let 
him ! 

Mrs. Alabaster got up and felt the muffins and turned 
them round, then she rearranged the bread-and-butter in 
the big dish, then she dropped a lump of sugar into the tea- 
cups, just by way of doing something. Mr. Alabaster's un- 
punctuality on this occasion was not only singular — it was 



94 THREE BRASS BALLS. 



annoying. It was the 13th of December, and his birthday, 
and on this occasion there were always muffins for tea and 
a few other little seasonable delicacies, such as a sixpenny 
cake, &c, and all the children waited and had tea with 
father. 

Jem was the youngest boy, but there were two more 
children not yet present — Nelly, a bonny girl of fourteen, 
the eldest, and Tom, who went to work with father and 
came home with him. 

Mr. Alabaster was a working jeweller. He was employed 
by a large firm in Hatton-garden, and had been with them 
twenty years. He was a great favourite with his employers, 
and often sent by them on confidential missions. "James 
Alabaster might have been trusted with untold gold," said 
the Messrs. Briggs, his employers, and they acted up to their 
belief. 

It was nearly seven when Nelly, her pretty cheeks scarlet 
with the cutting wind, came down from her post of sentry 
at the front door to announce that nothing was to be seen 
of father. 

Nelly always waited at the front door when she could, 
and got dad's first kiss, and helped him off with his com- 
forter and his overcoat. 

" I can't make it out, mother," continued the little girl, 
"because if he'd gone anywhere sure-/y he'd have sent Tom 
on to say so, and Tom ain't come home." 

" O' course he would," groaned Mrs. Alabaster, " Lor', I 
shall be quite in a fidget directly. There be such awful 
things in the noosepapers nowadays one don't know what 
to think. He may be " 

The good lady was just going to enumerate some of the 
horrible disasters which may befall people in the London 



A DIAMOND NECKLACE. 



95 



streets, when there came a knock at the door, and Nelly 
rushed up stairs. 

It wasn't father's knock, but it was Tom's. Perhaps 
father was with him. 

Tom came in as jolly as a sandboy, and smacking his lips 
at the smell of the muffins, but his face fell when they asked 
him where his father was. 

" Why, ain't he come home ? " 

" No." 

" Well, that's rum. Why, he left half an hour earlier to 
take a diamond necklace home that we had to repair, and 
he told me he should be home before me. I stopped half 
an hour late to let old Briggs out ; he stayed a bit late to- 
night." 

Mrs. Alabaster gave a little cry of terror. " O my poor 
orphans ! " she exclaimed ; " your poor father's been 
knocked down and robbed, and perhaps killed, and he'll 
never come home no more, and the muffins won't be worth 
eating when he does." 

" Oh, nonsense, mother," said Tom, cheerily. " Father 
will be here all right. He's only been kept waiting at the 
house. It's a lady of title as the necklace belongs to, and 
he was to give her the necklace himself, and take her re- 
ceipt for it." 

"Of course, mother," chimed in Nelly ; " why these grand 
ladies will keep you waiting hours." 

" Ah, well," said Mrs. Alabaster, wiping her eyes with 
her apron and fetching Jemmy a box on the ears for play- 
ing with the teapot lid; "what I says is, ladies or no 
ladies, a man ought to have his tea while it's hot. What's 

that?" 

That was a knock — father's knock, sure enough. 



g6 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

Nelly and Tom were at the door in a minute, and there 
was father as right as a trivet, and as jolly as ever. 

" Sorry I've kept tea waiting, 'Tilda, dear," he said, 
cheerily, as he gave his spouse a kiss that might have been 
heard next door; "fact is, I had a queer little job on to- 
night." 

" I know," answered Mrs. Alabaster, "the diamond neck- 
lace. There, sit down and have your tea ; the muffins will 
be as tough as leather. Just as if you couldn't have told 
the lady it was your birthday and you was expected home 
to tea." 

Mr. Alabaster sat down and had his tea, and his family 
gathered round the table and had their tea too. 

And in the interval of munching muffins and emptying 
his teacup, he related the adventure which had kept him so 
late. 

The diamond necklace had been sent by Lady D ■, an 

old customer of the firm, to have a slight alteration. 
Alabaster had instructions to deliver it to the lady in 
person, and take her receipt for it. The necklace had 
been hurried on, a servant having called from Lady D.'s 
a few days since with special instructions for it to be sent 

on a certain evening, as Lady D wanted to wear it at 

a ball. 

When Alabaster arrived at the house and asked for Lady 

D , he was told she was not in — would he step in and 

wait a minute ? 

He went into a room and sat by a fire, and the footman 
came in and talked to him. He was a very swell footman 
and kept nicking his pocket-handkerchief about in front of 
Alabaster's face, and waving it to and fro like the swell 
footmen do in the play, and presently the heat of the fire 



A DIAMOND NECKLACE. 97 

drew Mr. Alabaster off, for he felt quite drowsy, and his 
head nodded, and he must have dropped off and had forty 
winks. 

When he woke up he looked at the clock on the mantel- 
piece and saw it was past six, and then the footman came 
in and said her ladyship was detained in the country. They 
had received a telegram to say she would not be home till 
the morning. 

" Did you leave the diamonds, father ?" asked Tom. 

" Not me, my boy, I brought 'em away with me." 

Mrs. Alabaster leapt up in terror. She desired to know 
if Mr. Alabaster wanted his wife and children murdered in 
the night. How would he like to find them with their 
throats cut in the morning? She wouldn't sleep with them 
diamonds in the place. It was worse than a barrel of 
gunpowder. 

" Nonsense, my dear, who's to know I've got them 
here ? " 

Mr. Alabaster put his hand in his pocket and drew the 
case out and opened it. There, in its velvet bed, lay the 
beautiful diamond necklace. 

"Put it away!" shrieked Mrs. Alabaster; "how do you 
know who's a-lookin' through the keyhole? " 

Mrs. Alabaster's terror was so genuine that to console 
her her husband closed the case and put it in his pocket 
again. 

Mr. Alabaster had no peace that evening, and he heartily 
wished the necklace at the devil. About nine o'clock, when 
the street grew quiet, his wife had worked herself up into 
such a state that she absolutely refused to pass the night 
beneath the same roof as the diamonds. 

She was sure the house would be broken into. Thieves 

G 



gS THREE BRASS BALLS. 



could smell diamonds, she said, like postmen could postage- 
stamps. 

" Well, what the deuce would you have me do ? " growled 
Mr. Alabaster, at last fairly out of temper. 

" Why, take them back to the shop." 

" It's shut long ago, and everything locked up." 

" Well, then, take them to the governor's private house, 
and let him keep them all night." 

Directly he heard his wife's proposition it suddenly 
dawned upon Alabaster that this was what he ought to have 
done at first. 

" By Jove, old woman, you're right. Tom, put on your 
hat, and we'll take'em now." 

Tom, nothing loth, put on his overcoat, and he and his 
father set off for the North of London, where the governor 
lived. 

Arrived at the house, he sent up his name, and was shown 
into the dining-room. 

"Well, Alabaster, nothing wrong about the necklace, I 
hope," said the master, looking anxiously at his visitor. 

" No, sir, only Lady D was not at home, and not likely 

to be to-night, and as I had your strict orders to deliver 
it personally and take her receipt, I brought it away again." 

" Quite right, Alabaster ; we can't be too careful in these 
days of jewel robberies." 

"Yes, sir; I thought so, sir, and so I took it home, and 
somehow I didn't think perhaps my house was quite safe 
for such a valuable article, and so I brought it to you, sir." 

Alabaster put his hand into his breast pocket and drew 
out the jewel-case and presented it to his master. 

The jeweller took it, opened the case mechanically, and 
looked at the gems within. 



A DIAMOND NECKLACE. 



99 



As he did so a strange expression of horror stole across 
his face, and he went deadly white. 

" Good God, Alabaster ! "■ he exclaimed, springing to his 
feet. " What the devil does this mean ? " 

Alabaster stared in amazement, and thought his master 
must have gone suddenly mad. 

"What does what mean, sir? " he said, nervously. 

"Why, hang it, man, this isn't the necklace I sent you 
with ! These are paste." 

It was Alabaster's turn to be horrified now. 

" Paste, sir ! Why, they've never been out of my posses- 
sion since you gave them to me." 

The jeweller was pacing the room in a state of terrible 
excitement. He turned fiercely on to his workman. 

" I tell you these are paste! The diamonds I sent you 

with were Lady D 's own, that she left with us to be 

repaired." 

" But they've never " Alabaster stopped short. He 

suddenly remembered how he had fallen asleep at Lady 
D 's. 

He told his master all the circumstances. But that would 
hardly account for the robbery. 

" There's been a plot here," said his master. " You must 
come with me at once to Lady D 's." 

Alabaster felt like a man in a dream. The whole thing 
was a perfect mystery to him. He could hardly believe it. 

Tom was still waiting in the hall. He was sent home 
with a message to Mrs. Alabaster that his father had gone 
out on business with the master, and would be late home. 

" And don't go and frighten her, Tom, or let her know 
as I look flurried. I'll tell you all about it to-morrow." 

Tom went home with the message, and Alabaster, with 

G 2 



ioo THREE BRASS BALLS. 

a beating heart, got into a cab with his master and drove tc 

Lady D 's. 

***** 

" Is Lady D at home ? " 

" Yes." 

Alabaster was surprised. It was a different footman 
from the one who had let him in and told him her ladyship 
was detained in the country. 

He and his master were shown into an ante-room, and 
after a while Lady D came to them. 

She was utterly astonished when the jeweller commenced 
by saying that in consequence of her orders he had sent the 
necklace home that evening. 

" I never sent such an order." 

" Your own maid, madam, called with that message." 

Lady D — — rang the bell. 

"Send Parky ns to me." 

u Parkyns is out this evening, ma'am." 

Parkyns, the maid, not being there to answer for herself, 
Lady D requested the jeweller to continue. 

He told his story shortly — how he had sent a trustworthy 
messenger with the real diamonds, how the messenger, aftei 
waiting half an hour, had been told that her ladyship would 
not return to town that night, and how the messenger, 
having received instructions to hand them to her ladyship 
personally, had thereupon left the house with them. 

"And, your ladyship," concluded the jeweller, "between 
the time he left my establishment and returned to my 
private house the real jewels had been abstracted and these 
put in their place." 

With these words the jeweller opened the case and showed 
her ladyship the paste diamonds. 



A DIAMOND NECKLACE. 101 

Her ladyship gave a little start, and stammered out : 
" Why, those are mine." 

" What, your ladyship ! These are not the diamonds you 
left to be repaired ? " 

" No; but — dear me, it's very singular. To tell you the 
truth, some years ago in Paris I had a necklace made in 
imitation of my own, and — this is it. It must have been . 
abstracted from my jewel-case." 

The jeweller opened his eyes with astonishment: 
Alabaster sat with his mouth open as well. It was all like 
an Arabian night's entertainment to him. 

" But where are the real jewels? That is the question," 
said the jeweller, when he had recovered from his sur- 
prise. "It is now evident that the change was effected 
here, and that one of your people is concerned in the 
matter." 

" The footman who opened the door to me was a tall, 
dark man," Alabaster ventured to observe. "Perhaps he'd 
know why he said you weren't coming home, your lady- 
ship?" 

Lady D rang the bell and requested the footman who- 

answered it to send Johnson up. 

" Johnson's out this evening, your ladyship." 

" That's singular," exclaimed the jeweller. "The maid 
who left the false message and the footman who deceived 
my messenger are both out." 

Her ladyship looked puzzled. It certainly seemed very 
strange. 

" I think I'd better go to Scotland-yard at once," said 
the jeweller, "if you've no objection. This is what they 
call a plant, your ladyship, and the sooner the police know 
of it the more likely we are to get your necklace back. You 



102 THREE BRASS BALLS. 



won't see either your maid or your footman again. They're 
off with the necklace." 

***** 

The jeweller's anticipations were realised. Neither of 

the suspected servants returned, and when Lady D 

went to her jewel-case she found that the necklace was not 
the only thing she had lost. 

The police took the matter up at once, but before they 
had time to make many inquiries a new feature was imparted 
to the case. 

By the following afternoon's post Alabaster's master 
received a letter. On half a sheet of paper was scribbled in 
pencil : " This ain't any use to us — you can have it now 
we've passed the notes " ; and enclosed was a pawnbroker's 
agreement for the advance of £800 on a diamond necklace 
the property of Lady D . 

The jeweller went off with a detective at once to the 
pawnbroker, and interviewed him. The transaction was 
perfectly square and straightforward. This was the pawn- 
broker's narrative : — 

" The other day a footman brought me a note apparently 

from Lady D , saying that her ladyship wished for a 

temporary advance of £800 on a diamond necklace. Would 
I call on such a day at such an hour and see the necklace 
and make the advance ? 

" Such a request is not at all unusual. Very great people 
pledge their valuables at times, and I saw nothing peculiar 
in the affair, especially as I was to go or send to her 
ladyship's house. No thought of fraud ever entered my 
head. 

" I went about half-past five in the evening and was 
shown into a room. After waiting some time a lady I 



A DIAMOND NECKLACE. 103 



presumed to be Lady D came in and brought me the 

necklace in a case which I noticed was not made for it. 

" A footman who took my name when I called informed 
me that her ladyship was at home, and he addressed the 
lady I saw as 'your ladyship.' I had no reason to suspect 
that it was a case of personation. 

"The jewels were perfectly right. I gave notes for the 
amount, and took them away with me, and here they are." 

With these words the pawnbroker opened the case, and 
there sure enough was the diamond necklace. 

The plot was now perfectly plain. The jeweller had been 
ordered by the maid to send the necklace home at an hour 
when her ladyship would be out, the pawnbroker had called 
about the same time, and been shown into an adjoining 
room, and then the change had been effected. 

There was no doubt the thieves were well aware that the 

jewels would only be given up personally to Lady D , 

and hence the necessity for the complicated arrangements. 

The fact of the necklace being sent to repair doubtless 
suggested the scheme to obtain possession of it. When it 

was at home Lady D ■ always kept it in a place of safety, 

to which not even her maid could obtain access. 

The police concluded that Alabaster had been stupefied by 
a chloroformed handkerchief being waved in front of him, 
and that the whole was an artfully-contrived plot of the 
footman and maid, who had not been long in her ladyship's 
service, and who were doubtless confederates and part of 
the gang of professional jewel robbers, who live about in 
service until they have an opportunity of effecting a coup. 

The necklace was duly redeemed, Lady D and the 

jeweller arranging the loss between them; and Mrs. 
Alabaster, who heard the whole story, went down on her 



104 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

bended knees and begged her husband, if he loved her, 
never to go a-takin' diming necklaces and things 'ome, not 
for nobody, as might ha' chloroformed him to death, and no 
knowin' but for that agreement or memyrandum a-turnin' 
up as it did might have caused him to be thought to be one 
of the gang himself, which a honester man, though that pig- 
headed and obstinate at times, didn't exist. 

And Mrs. Alabaster is to a certain extent right. But for 
the thieves sending the agreement, knowing they could 
neither dispose of it nor redeem the necklace, it is quite 
possible Alabaster might have gone through the world with 
a suspicion of having been something worse than a dupe in 
the matter attached to him. 

In this, the age of clever jewel robberies, when the thieves 
have an organisation which not only includes servants, but 
detectives, I need not insist too much on the truth of this 
narrative. 

There is a well-known jeweller, not a hundred miles from 
Hatton-garden, who will be very pleased to endorse every 
word of it, and if he is engaged, ask for Mr. Alabaster. 

But if he should not happen to be in, pray don't go to 
his private residence and mention the object of your visit to 
his wife. The mere mention of a diamond necklace sends 
that worthy lady into hysterics. 



Pledge IX. 
A PAIR OF BLANKETS. 

The great gas star of the Royal Alcazar Music Hall 
flung its radiance half across the muddy roadway outside, 
and brought the magnificence of a pair-horse brougham 
into full relief. It lit up the silver-plated harness of the 
impatient chestnuts, it beamed upon the shiny hat of the 
liveried Jehu, and just enabled the passer-by to see that the 
interior of the equipage was luxury itself. 

It was evident that some person of distinction was the 
proprietor, for an eager crowd had gathered about the car- 
riage waiting for him to make his appearance. 

It isn't always a pleasant crowd to look upon that gathers 
in the Haymarket at 1 1 p.m., and to-night the flaring trans- 
parency and the milk-white gas globes flung a garish light 
upon gaunt figures, sallow, wicked faces, leering eyes, and 
cruel lips. There were battered wrecks of humanity there 
— tottering old sinners broken down by drink and dissipa- 
tion ; and there were youths just entering on manhood, but 
with faces that told already a miserable tale of early vice. 

And there, too, were women — women out of whom the 
world had long since crushed all semblance of womanhood. 
There, side by side, stood the stout Belgian outcast in her 
hired finery, and the thin English wanton in her tawdry 
rag's, and near them the old and shrivelled beldames who 
are the spies of West-end hagdom ; and over all there 
floated an odour of patchouly and gin. 



106 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

The rain pours down, but the crowd still waits. Round 
it gathers a fringe of respectability — countrymen seeing 
life, gentlemen on their way to the club, and decent men 
and women passing along to their homes. 

" What are they waiting for ? " says a young woman, 
with her marketing basket on her arm, to her husband. 

Before he can reply, the answer comes from a youth at 
her elbow — a youth with his billycock hat on one side, a 
cigar in his mouth, and a shilling crutch stick in his hand. 

" Why, for O'Howler, o' course. It's 'is Ben ter-nite, 
and thet's 'is kerridge." 

The youth is right ; the ladies and gentlemen are waiting 
to see the great O'Howler, the lion comique, the gentleman 
who earns thirty pounds a night by roaring out meaningless 
trash spiced with innuendo that means a great deal. 

It is his benefit to-night at the Royal Alcazar. The walls 
are plastered with his name in letters of red and green. 
Inside the place is crammed. He has sung his last song, he 
has made his speech, and been presented on the stage with 
a diamond ring by the proprietor — the diamond ring being 
provided by himself — and now he is drinking champagne at 
10s. 6d. a bottle with the "swell" patrons of the establish- 
ment. He doesn't drink much, for he has another " turn " 
at half-past eleven. 

The inside patrons have been duly gratified, and the 
patient outsiders' turn is approaching. 

The great man comes out jauntily, a huge rose in the 
button-hole of his light coat, and his diamond shirt-studs 
flashing in the gaslight. 

How they envy him, some of these poor wretches in the 
street ! how they wonder what he does with his thirty 
pounds a night ! One pale-faced lad pushes his way to the 



A PAIR OF BLANKETS. 107 



front and shouts out, " Brayvo, Bill ! " Bill is the 
O'Howler's Christian name. 

The O'Howler strides through the crowd to his carriage 
with the calm disdain of an emperor accustomed to homage. 
He turns the silver handle of the door, and is about to fling 
himself gracefully into the gorgeous interior, when a violent 
hand is laid upon the tail of his elegant overcoat. 

The great O'Howler turns with an oath to see who has 
thus dared to assail him, and the crowd gives a shout of 
astonishment. 

This proud creature of genius, in faultless array, with his 
rose and his diamonds and his lavender kids, is held firmly 
in the clasp of a wretched, gin-sodden hag, whose rags are 
encrusted with mud, and over whose bloated face the 
drenched hair escaped from a battered bonnet hangs in a 
wet, untidy mass, so that her features are scarcely dis- 
cernible. 

The singer, disgusted and savage, gives her a violent 
push, but fails to get free. 

She clings to his coat-tail, jabbering and shouting. 

" Leave go, you drunken fool, or I'll give you into 
custody ! " 

" Ha ! ha ! ha ! " yells the hag. " Give me into custody, 
will you? Look here, my fine gentleman, don't you know 
me?" 

She staggers back, and with a violent effort flings the 
hair back from her face. 

The women in the crowd jeer, the boys laugh, and the 
respectable fringe gives a little cry of horror and loathing. 

It is an awful face. It is the face of a woman not old yet, 
and with the remnants still of what were once good looks. 
But the cheeks are puffed and blotched with drink, a blow 



io8 THREE BRASS BALLS. 



has blackened one eye and laid open a portion of the cheek, 
and dirt encrusts the whole. 

The little cry of horror in the crowd is music in her ears. 
She points to her hideous face, and stammers out with 
many a drunken hiccup — 

"Look at me! — ain't I a beauty? But I'm as good as 
him. He's a mighty fine gentleman, with his carriage and 
his diamonds, ain't he? Ask him who I am, curse him? " 

She runs at the lion comique again, and seizes him, 
crumpling and marking his beautiful shirt-front with her 
filthy paws. 

" Look in my face, Bill O'Howler, and deny it if you 
can — ain't I your lawful wife — ain't I Mrs. O'Howler?" 

The great man is deathly pale now, his lips tremble, and 
he seems to gasp for breath. Collecting himself with an 
effort, he seizes the woman by the wrists, and, flinging her 
from him violently, leaps into his carriage and drives off 
amid the yells of the mob. 

***** 

The great O'Howler had done his last "turn," and had 
nearly broken down. The habitues of the chairman's table 
wondered what was up with " O'H." 

He did not stay to satisfy inquirers. He got away directly 
he had finished his songs, and drove home instead of going, 
as he usually did, to his club. 

He was undoubtedly agitated and nervous, and he had 
reason to be so. The hag who had assaulted him was his 
lawful wife, the mother of his little girl, and for many years 
Uie faithful sharer of his joys and sorrows. In the years 
long ago, when he was only a linendrapers' assistant, toil- 
ing for a paltry wage from eight in the morning till nine and 
ten at night, this woman had been his faithful, lovino- wife. 



A PAIR OF BLANKETS. 109 

It had been a hard struggle then for bread, but they had 
been very happy. Nelly had worked herself to the bone to 
keep their little home comfortable and the baby tidy, and 
he had always found comfort and rest at his humble little 
hearth. 

He was a good fellow then — that is he could sing a good 
song and tell a good story, and among the married fellows 
in the shop who had homes he was a great favourite, and 
asked to their houses to supper now and then, and he 
always gave them a song. 

It was often said to him jocularly in those days that he 
ought to get an engagement at a music-hall, and he began 
by-and-by to think seriously of it. 

The shoe pinched at home, for the wife fell ill, and his 
paltry wages were quite inadequate to the requirements of 
a medical attendant. 

Pushed in a corner, the idea occurred to him to try and 
get an engagement at a free-and-easy or public-house 
concert, and he succeeded by this means in adding a trifle 
a week to his income. 

From that hour he advanced rapidly, and soon got an 
engagement at a regular music-hall, where he became a 
favourite, and gradually rose to the front rank of stardom. 

But with his first success came his first great trouble. 

His wife, who in the days of adversity had been a blessing 
to him, now that he was prosperous grew to be a curse. 

During her long illness she had been ordered to drink 
port wine. Gradually she grew to crave for it, and soon 
spirits took the place of wine. 

She felt she wanted it " to keep her up." The old, old 
story was told again. The craving grew and grew till it 
developed into a disease. 



no THREE BRASS BALLS. 

The husband, away continually from home, scarcely 
guessed how bad matters were at first, and some slight 
desire to hide it from him acted as a small check upon the 
woman's downward course. 

But he found it all out presently, and then the last barrier 
was broken. 

Wider and wider grew the breach, till at last it was open 
enmity — disgust on his part, hatred on hers. She followed 
him to the halls then, drank at the bars, and annoved him. 
Then came domestic brawls at home, quarrels, curses, and 
blows. Lower and lower she fell into the abyss of drunken- 
ness, till at last he left her, broke up the home, took his 
daughter away with him, and made the wife a separate 
allowance. 

She spent it all in drink, threatened him, begged of him, 
and made his life a misery. At last he promised her a large 
sum to leave the country. She accepted it, and he thought 
at last he was free. 

He was a great star now, worshipped by the music-hall 
habitues, wealthy and happy in the new home he had made, 
where his daughter reigned like a little queen. 

At home with Nelly, his little girl, the great O' Howler 
was a different man. The yelling lion comique had disap- 
peared, and there sat the happy, quiet father devoted to his 
child, and sharing heartily in her innocent pleasures. 

It was a relief to him after the coarse glitter and heartless 
mockery of the music-halls to sit at home and talk with his 
child, to wander with her on the sunny days through the 
fields and lanes, and listen to her innocent prattle. 

He dreamed no splendid dream for her ; he would rather 
see her dead than on a public stage. Some day she might 
love someone better than him, he thought, with a si°-h but 



A PAIR OF BLANKETS. 1 1 1 

he dismissed the idea, and pictured himself a grey-haired old 
gentleman living in some quiet place far from the babel 
roar, with Nelly for his little housekeeper and companion. 

It was for her he worked ; it was her sweet face that 
loomed upon him in fancy through the smoke and fumes of 
the music-halls, and reconciled him to the coarse familiarity 
of the cads and the insolent patronage of the swells. 

He was a lion comique with a strident voice and a flash 
style, but underneath the magnificent shirt-front and the 
diamond studs there was an honest, loving heart filled now 
with one image — that of his child. 

It was for Nelly's sake more than his own that he was 
terrified to know his wife was back again, pursuing him. 

Soon after she went away he had broken it gently to the 
child that her mamma was dead, and Nelly had mourned 
awhile, as children mourn, and then forgotten. 

He thought of the jeers that would greet him from his 
companions if it were known this drunken hag was the wife 
of the great star whom they all hated because he was so 
successful. And the public ? What would they think if 
they knew that while he was riding in his brougham his wife 
was wandering the streets a drunken outcast. 

And she was Nelly's mother, too. Oh, it was too horrible ! 

Yes ; for the child's sake he would make one more effort 
to save his wife. It was not only the disgrace to him, it was 
his child's name that also would be linked with the mother's 
shame. 

He searched, but he found her not. He advertised under 
initials that a sum of money awaited her at the solicitors', 
but she evidently never saw the paper. 

For a time his life was a terror to him. Every night as 
he sang his eye wandered nervously among the audience; 



1 1 2 THREE BRA SS BALLS. 

every time he passed from the hall to his carriage he 
trembled lest he should be confronted by the drunken, 
ragged outcast who bore his name. 

But the months passed on and he heard no more of her, 
and the fear wore off. And the summer mellowed into 
autumn, and autumn shivered into winter, and Christmas 
was round again, and the great O'Howler was king of the 
pantomime at a house across the water. 

***** 

The pantomime season is approaching its termination at 

the Theatre Royal , and the O' Howler's little daughter 

has not seen it. 

She wanted to see papa — funny papa — so badly, and 
to-night he has brought her, and she sits alone in a private 
box. 

The great comique has told his brother and sister artists 
that his daughter is present to-night, for he is very proud of 
her, and the funny men and the beautiful ladies as they 
dance and sing and play the fool all give a glance at the 
stage box where Nelly sits entranced. 

"What a beautiful little girl, O'H.," says the second low 
comedian, who is playing an ogre. " When are you going 
to bring her out ? " 

" Never," is the emphatic answer. 

" By-the-by, O'H.," says the man presently, still looking 
towards the box, " I didn't know you were married." 

"Didn't you?" 

"No; I've never heard of a Mrs. O'H." 

" She's dead," answers the great comique, and then he 
turns sharply away and gets to the wing for his next 
entrance. 

When the opening of the pantomime was over Nelly was 



A PAIR OF BLANKETS. 113 

fetched round to papa's dressing-room, and when he was 
ready they both went out at the stage-door. 

There was a crowd round it listening to someone who 
was talking, and every now and then there was a roar of 
laughter 

O' Howler clutched his child's hand and would have walked 
rapidly past, for he did not wish her to hear the language of 
the streets ; but suddenly he heard his own name, and stood 
rooted to the spot. 

" Here is O'Howler, missus," said a scene-shifter in the 
crowd. " Now you'd better run away." 

" Me ! " shrieked a voice that made the singer's blood 
run cold. "Me run away! Not me! Where is he, the 
wretch ? " 

The crowd of supers and ballet-girls drew on one side, 
and there, the centre of the jeering group, stood a drunken 
and loathsome woman. 

"The drunken old idiot says she's your wife, sir," said 
the scene-shifter, touching his hat. " Shall I call a police- 
man ? " 

The hag shrieked with laughter. 

"Yes; send for a policeman. Yah! He can't deny it. 
Ain't I your lawful wife, Bill O'Howler?" 

Suddenly she caught sight of the little girl, and rushed 
' towards her with her arms extended. 

Nelly shrieked as the terrible woman came near her, 
^ but before anyone could interfere the hag had flung her 
arms about the child's neck and had clasped her to her 
ragfg'ed breast. 

" My child," she whined ; " my child that they robbed me 
of ! Ain't I your own dear mother, Nelly, eh ? " 

The child, poisoned with the fiery breath of the dram- 

11 



ii4 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

drinker, and crushed close to her frowsy rags, gave a cry 
of horror ; but as the woman spoke she looked earnestly 
into the bloated, disfigured face, and knew it again. 

"Oh, mother, mother!" she wailed. "Poor mother! 
We thought you were dead." 

O' Howler dashed forward, and would have dragged Nelly 
away from the filthy embraces of the drunkard, but the 
crowd, astonished at the dramatic denouement of a street 
comedy, had closed round the mother and child, and were 
listening eagerly to the startling revelation. 

Suddenly the crowd stood aside as if by magic, and the 
star saw his wife in the grasp of a policeman. 

" Now then, missus, come along," said the man. 

Then he added, turning to a woman who accompanied 
him, " Sure this is her ? " 

"Sure enough, the thief! That's her as come and had 
lodging at my house, and stole the things and pawned 'em 
for drink, the wretch ! " 

Mrs. O' Howler started up and let go poor Nelly, who, 
seeing her mother in the clutch of a policeman, now clung 
instinctively to her. 

Mrs. O'Howler was fumbling in her pocket, when the 
policeman caught her hand and forced it open. 

In it was a pawn-ticket for a pair of blankets. 

" Ah, you was goin' to throw that away, was you ? Here, 
come along," said the officer, and taking her by the arm 
he forced the woman towards the station. 

The people followed. 

The landlady held forth to them on her wrongs. She'd 
housed and fed this woman and never got her rent, and had 
to put up with her drunken, beastly ways, and she must 
go and strip the place and pawn the things for drink. 



A PAIR OF BLANKETS. 115 

"And them there blankets," she added, " she have took 
unbeknown to me this werry day off my own bed." 

As her mother was dragged away amid the jeers of the 
crowd, Nelly, sobbing, clung to her father, who had been a 
silent spectator of the scene. 

He had been glued to the spot ; he had been powerless 
to speak. The event, so sudden and so horrible, had over- 
whelmed him. But as his daughter took his hand and the 
crowd passed away he bowed his head and moaned : — 

" Oh, the shame — the bitter shame ! " 

And even his coachman, who had seen and heard all, 
pitied the lion comique, as, humiliated and heartbroken, he 
stepped into his gorgeous equipage and said, in a voice 
choked with emotion, " Home ! " 

5{J 5(C 5JC 5|C 5$C 

"Ellen O'Howler, a wretched-looking creature, who said 
she was the wife of the well-known comic singer of that 
name, was convicted of illegally pawning a pair of blankets, 
the property of Mrs. Esther Johnson, and was sentenced to 
six months' imprisonment." 

That was the short paragraph which ran the round of the 
papers and awoke some curious comment. Half the people, 
however, who noted it at all believed the woman was a 
drunkard, and that the statement was quite untrue. 

But to O'Howler it brought unutterable agony. 

He had not been called at the trial, and those of the 
profession who had heard the stage-door story had carefully 
avoided referring in any way to it in his presence. 

Many of them had too many skeletons of their own not 
to feel sympathy when a neighbour's popped unexpectedly 
out of its cupboard. 

It was at home with his daughter that O'Howler felt it 

II 2 



n6 THREE BRASS BALLS. 



most. The child was at an age when all strange events 
make deep impressions. 

The sight of the mother she had thought dead in those 
terrible rags and with those ghastly features had inexpressibly 
shocked her, and now when she thought of that mother 
dragged away to prison amid the jeers of a cruel crowd her 
-sensitive heart was almost broken. 

And she knew now that her mother was not only a 
drunkard, but a thief. The story of the pawned blankets 
had been yelled aloud by the indignant landlady in her 
presence. 

The comic singer and his daughter sat alone in their 
beautiful house now, and there was heard no pleasant sound 
of laughter. 

Between them always there rose up the awful figure of 
the wife and the mother, the drunken outcast and the 
convicted thief. 

Bitter shame rested upon the name they bore, and it 
could not be changed or concealed. 

It stared at them in letters two feet high from the 
hoardings ; it flaunted itself outside the great music-halls in 
the full blaze of gas stars and flaring jets. 

***** 

The months have passed away and the days are coming 
when the wretched woman will be free once more. 

O' Howler has vowed, for his own sake and the child's, to 
get her out of the country ere she brings further shame 
upon them. 

But the world troubles itself little with his awful sorrow, 
and guesses not the load of agony he carries with him as he 
strikes his jaunty attitudes upon the stage and yells out the 
merry songs that the street boys whistle from pole to pole. 



A PAIR OF BLANKETS. u 7 

They see his name on the hoardings, these street boys; 
they hear of his princely salary; ami sometimes, on a 
Saturday night, they spend a hard-earned sixpence to get 
into the gallery and listen to him. They envy him and 
think of his diamonds and his glory. 

But they do not know how, when the lights are out and 
the plaudits are heard no more, the lion comique would give 
all his fame and all his wealth to be as lighthearted and hard 
up and free from trouble as the humble office-boy that envies 
him his magnificence. 

But there is one treasure that he would never part with. 
It is the knowledge that he possesses it which sustains him, 
in his terrible affliction. 

When the grey shadows pass across his face, and he sits- 
and thinks of the old days when he was a toiling linen- 
drapers' assistant, poor and unknown, but happy, a sweet 
voice breaks upon his reverie, and looking down he sees 
two eyes upturned to him full of truth and love. 

And bending down to kiss the fair young face, he thanks 
God that the wretched woman who has marred his later life 
bore him a child in his obscure poverty to lighten the load 
of his present fame and wealth. 



Pledge X. 
A SURPLICE. 

The Rev. James Dawson, irreverently known as 
" Jemmy," was a great favourite in Bishop Orton. Bishop 
Orton, a quiet, sleepy little market town in Essex, had 
taken to the Rev. James from the day he came down third 
class from London to enter on his duties as curate with a 
carpet-bag in one hand and a gun-case in the other. He 
was of the good old order of parsons, which is fast dying 
out. He was fond of a drop of port when he could get it. 
He would puff his long clay at the open window of his 
lodgings, and he would drop into the Rose and Crown 
parlour and ask if the landlady would oblige him with the 
loan of last week's Bell's Life. 

There was no pride about the Rev. James. He was 
wofully poor, and he made no effort to conceal it. He had 
to wear his clothes till they were threadbare, and his shirts 
till they were frayed, and the tradespeople in Bishop Orton 
could certify to the fact that he didn't spend his money in 
the luxuries of the table. 

Jones, the butcher, calculated that he had a pound of 
meat twice a week, and Smith, the baker, swore that a loaf 
lasted "Jemmy" four davs. 

His duties were not heavy, for he had no week-day 
services to conduct, but his stipend was small; £60 a year 
was the magnificent price allowed to the rev. gentleman by 
an absent vicar, whose income was hundreds. 



A SURPLICE. 119 



Now, up in London, bed-ridden, in a little back room, 
lay a poor old lady, who had seen better days, but who was 
now dependent on her only son. That son kept her, though 
he was poor himself. He went without an overcoat and fire 
in the winter that his old mother might have little com- 
forts, and sometimes he went without food. 

No one guessed the reason that the Bishop Orton curate 
was so awfully shabby on his £60 a year, but twice a year 
he went up to London to see this old bed-ridden lady in the 
little back room. He was the good son, and this was the 
mystery of his scanty meals and shabby clothes. 

But he had one vice, one terrible vice, which was also an 
extravagance. He was fond of shooting, and for the 
purpose of shooting he kept a gun. 

He was out with his gun whenever he got a chance of a 
day's sport, and often and often he would carry it with him 
on his visits to the poor, and leave it in the corner while he 
chatted with the men and women. 

If the women folk only were at home he stuck to business. 
He gave a little good advice where it was wanted, and was 
duly serious where seriousness was necessary. He had a 
quiet way of laying down rules and regulations for guidance 
in life — a plain, homely way that appealed not only to the 
ears but to the hearts of the people, and three words from 
the Rev. James Dawson were as good as a sermon from 
anyone else. 

But if the husband was at home and was a sportsman, 
somehow or other he and "Jemmy" would begin talking 
about dogs and horses, and the bull pup's points would be 
discussed with animation, for the parson was reckoned a 
tine judge of bulls and " tarriers." 

The Rev. " Jemmy's" gun was a source of great terror 



120 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

to the old ladies. He was quite as ready to pray with art 
old lady as he was to talk bull pups with her son or her 
husband ; but though he flung his whole soul into it and was 
far more earnest than the eye-rollers and whiners, the old 
ladies were sometimes much more nervous about the state 
of "Jemmy's" gun than about the state of their own souls. 

Women are proverbially nervous of fire-arms, and the 
sight of the Rev. " Jemmy's " gun in the corner was not 
always pleasant to them. 

Gradually, however, folks got quite used to it, and as, 
after being carried about for a couple of years and deposited 
in the corner of half the cottages in Bishop Orton, it had 
never been known to go off, it was pronounced to be a 
harmless creature. 

The parson and his gun was a familiar sight in the streets 
of Bishop Orton for a time, and then gradually folks began 
to notice that the rev. gentleman didn't go shooting and 
didn't carry a gun. 

"What's become o' 'Jemmy's' gun?" asked the curious, 
but nobody could say. 

Once the butcher put it to the rev. gentleman plainly. 

" Hoo is't thee niver goes shootin' neow, parson ?" he 
asked one day. 

The Rev. James smiled and shook his head and went on 
his way, and so Jones concluded that the question wasn't an 
agreeable one. 

The truth is, that when the Rev. James arrived at Bishop 
Orton he had, as you are aware, for luggage, in addition to 
his gun-case, a carpet-bag. Now, this carpet-bag contained 
his surplice, and that with his gun and the clothes he wore 
constituted his earthly possessions. 

One day a dreadful accident happened to that surplice. 



A SURPLICE. i2t 



It had been sent to wash to the house of a bull pup to give 
the wife of the bull pup's master, who was a washerwoman, 
a turn, and the bull pup, being left to his own devices in 
the back garden, where it was hanging out to dry, did 
sacrilegiously and wickedly, being doubtless lured thereto 
by the Evil One, get it down and sport with it and worry 
it, enjoying himself to such an extent that in a short space 
of time it was in strips, and damaged beyond repair. 

The washerwoman, horrified at the disaster, went to the 
Rev. James's lodgings and told her tale with tears in her 
eyes. She would make it good, she would buy another, and, 
oh, she was so sorry — and ought the dog to be killed ? 

The good soul had a faint idea that the act of impiety on 
the part of the bull pup brought him under the anathema of 
Mother Church. 

The Rev. James was grieved, but he knew that the poor 
woman was in a sore strait, and could ill afford to make 
good his loss. In his easy-going way he comforted her. 
The loss was nothing. The surplice was old. It was time 
he bought himself another. 

The good-hearted parson talked so glibly of his misfortune 
that the washerwoman dried her eyes, and eventually trotted 
off home fully persuaded that she had done the parson a 
real service, and that the bull pup who was at the bottom of 
the affair ought to becanonisedratherthan excommunicated. 

When she was gone, and the Rev. James sat alone in his- 
humble lodgings with his bread-and-cheese dinner in front 
of him, he beean to review the situation, for it was a serious 
one. 

He must have a surplice to preach in on Sunday. There 
was no one in the neighbourhood to lend him one. He 
counted up all the money he had about him, and it wasn't 



122 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

enough. He must send the order to town that day and 
enclose a P.O.O., and he hadn't sufficient. His little means 
had been terribly crippled of late. The poor old bed-ridden 
mother had been worse, and all he could spare had gone to 
her. Suddenly his eye rested on his gun. 

He would sell it ! 

He shuddered. His gun had a history. It had been his 
elder brother's — had belonged to poor dead Ned, and it was 
all he had left to remind him of their lifelong love for each 
other. No ; he couldn't sell it. 

He went out for a little walk to think, and walking he 
passed the shop of Mr. Sweetapple, the pawnbroker. He 
stopped and looked at the pledges in the window. One was 
a gun. Why shouldn't he pledge his gun ? It wouldn't be 
parting with it. 

Half an hour afterwards the sole companion of his life 
had gone from its accustomed resting-place. The pawn- 
broker had it, and the Rev. James carried a ticket for it in 
his waistcoat pocket. 

It was a long time before Bishop Orton saw "Jemmy" 
go by with his gun again, but everybody noticed next 
Sunday that he had a new surplice on. 

***** 

The mellow autumn came round and the crack of the 
gun was heard continually in the pleasant woods of Bishop 
Orton. The Rev. James tried not to listen to it. It 
touched a tender chord in his heart. 

Sitting at home with the window open to let in the 
bright afternoon sunshine, his eyes would .wander far awav 
to where the golden light tipped the red and brown leaves 
of the thickets, and where of old he had had many a day's 
quiet sport. 



A SURPLICE. I23 



Then he would heave a sigh and look sorrowfully at the 
corner where his dear old gun had stood. 

He hadn't many pleasures in life, God knows. He was 
rusting away body and mind among the boors, who treated 
him as hail fellow well met, and whose Sunday clothes 
made his poor old suit of threadbare black look doubly 
seedy. He wanted something to rouse him ; something to 
oring back the memory of old times. 

Thinking of his gun he thought of the dear brother, whose 
hand, now cold in death, had clasped it so often. Poor old 
Ned ! He lay in a nameless grave far away under the 
Russian snows with a heap of other brave fellows who had 
fought and died in the cruel Crimean war. 

The Rev. James grew sentimental. The autumnal glow, 
the fair prospect of the mellow-tinted woods, and the 
musical crack of the far-off guns woke all the dormant 
poetry of his nature. O for an hour with the dear old gun 
again ! 

The pawnbroker's shop was only two minutes' walk. He 
could get it out for a day. But to get it out money was 
wanted. He had no money to spare. The poor old mother 
wanted it all now. He remembered why he had pawned 
his gun, and swiftly an idea shaped itself. His new surplice 
owed a debt of gratitude to his gun. Why should it not be 
paid? 

It took him some time to make up his mind to an act 
which at first seemed inexcusable. But gradually he argued 
himself out of any little compunction he might at first have 
had, and before the sun went down he had a ticket for 
his surplice in his pocket and the dear old gun stood in 
the corner that had missed it so long. 

The Rev. James made a fool of himself over that gun. 



i24 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

He hugged it like a baby, he kissed it and cried over it. 
And the next day he marched it in triumph through the 
streets, and Bishop Orton exclaimed with one voice, "Why, 
' Temmy's ' out wi' his gun again ! " 

But the poor parson's pleasure was short-lived. Satur- 
day came, and the surplice had to come out ; so in went 
the gun. But on Monday the surplice was not wanted and 
the gun was. What had been done once could be done 
again. In went the surplice, and out came the gun. And 
by-and-by Mr. Sweetapple, who was discretion itself, knew 
that as sure as Saturday came he should have the Rev. 
"Jemmy's" gun to mind, and as sure as Monday came he 
should have his surplice.* 

***** 

It was nine o'clock on Friday night in Bishop Orton, and 
the streets were just getting quiet. A few groups stood 
about in the market-placeand outside the beerhouses, talking. 

The shop of Mr. Sweetapple, the pawnbroker, was in the 
market-piace. It was all close shut and barred, and the 
proprietor, his wife and daughter, were out at a friend's 
house spending the evening. 

The eldest son was left at home to mind the place, and 
he had grumbled very much at not being allowed to join 
the family party. This was known because subsequently 
his words and acts were sworn to in a court of justice. 

At seven the place was closed up, and the assistant went 
away, leaving young Sweetapple alone in the house. At 
nine the folks standing about the market-place detected a 



* This curious arrangement was carried out exactly as here described. 
The Eev. " Jemmy " has long since gone over to the majority, but the 
pawnbroker still lives; and the subsequent events here detailed are well 
remembered by every inhabitant of Bishop Orton. 



A SURPLICE. 



125 



smell of burning, and began to glance about them ; in a few 
minutes they noticed a red glare in the upper windows ol 
the pawnbroker's shop, and then young Sweetapple came 
rushing out crying aloud that the place was on fire. 

In a short time the market-place was full of people. The 
cry had gone round that the pawnbroker's was on fire. 
Men tore madly off for the engines, the flames burst through 
the roof and roared up towards the sky. 

The crowd in the market-place grew and grew, some 
maniac rushed off and rang the church bells, and the people 
came pouring in from the outlying villages. 

Tears and lamentations, groans and curses, filled the air 
The poor folks wailed forth piteous tales of ruin, dilating on 
the household gods they had entrusted to the care of their 
" uncle " ; and still the flames rolled on. 

Help came at last. The engines thundered into the 
market-place, the crowd surged to and fro, and the police 
beat the people back that the firemen might work. 

Over the roar of the fire and the hissing of the water 
that played upon the burning walls there rose the cries of 
an angry populace whose belongings were being sacrificed 
before their very eyes. 

The poor people were loudest in their cries and ejacula- 
tions as bundle after bundle of clothing, furniture, bedding, 
fire-irons, pictures, and all the miscellaneous articles of a 
pawnbroker's stock were hurled into the street. 

What was the fabled shower of frogs to the showers of 
flannel petticoats and flat-irons that burst upon the 
astonished gaze of Bishop Orton as the firemen rushed in 
co rescue what they might ! 

But it was not the people who made the most noise that 
suffered most. 



126 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

Standing among the crowd were hundreds of well-dressed 
folks, respectable householders, tradespeople, and profes- 
sional men, who were supposed not to know what a 
"duplicate" meant, and it was evident from their pale and 
anxious faces that they had a personal interest in the 
pledges now rapidly becoming burnt offerings. 

Even the squire from the hall came galloping in on his 
coal-black mare, and when he reined up in the market-place 
cried out with an oath that his family plate was in the 
pawnbroker's keeping. 

Among the great crowd, all more or less personally in- 
terested in the destruction of property still going on, no one 
noticed the parson. 

But he stood there, a little way apart, watching the pro- 
gress of the flames with a pale face and trembling lips. 

" Thank God I'vegot poor Ned's gun safe!" he murmured. 

That was his only consolation. There in the universal 
wreck he knew his surplice must be. Shame had come 
that night to many a one in Bishop Orton, but to none did 
it come so vividly as to poor parson "Jemmy " as he thought 
that now all his parishioners would know he had pawned 
his surplice. 

To-morrow was Saturday If when the fire was out it 
was found to be destroyed — and there seemed little chance 
that anything but the jewellery and plate could be saved — 
whatever should he do ? 

Still, in the middle of all his trouble he kept murmuring, 
" Thank God I've got poor Ned's gun ! " 

By eleven o'clock the fire was got under, and the police 
took possession, or the people would have broken through 
and searched for their imperilled belongings among the 
debris. 



A SURPLICE. 127 



It was one before the crowd thinned down and broke up. 
That night there were heavy hearts in Bishop Orton, and 
none heavier than that of the penniless clergyman, Avho 
wondered what on earth he should do on Sunday for a 
surplice. 

3|C ^f» *|* ^% *y* 

On Saturday there was greater excitement than ever in 
Bishop Orton. The fire was declared to be the result of 
design, and that afternoon young Sweetapple was arrested 
and lodged in gaol on the charge. 

It was sworn at the subsequent trial that he had been 
heard to threaten his father should repent not allowing him 
to go out, and it was proved that he had been down in that 
part of the building where the fire originated with a light. 

With him I have nothing to do here. The trial, after 
many adjournments, was concluded, and when all the 
evidence had been heard, a jury acquitted the lad of the 
crime charged against him. 

How the fire originated does not much matter. Its 
consequences to the townfolkand the neighbouring villagers 
were terrible. 

So many secrets had slipped out in the excitement of the 
moment that half the people were ashamed to talk about it 
at all. 

Folks who had always been supposed to be wealthy were 
proved to have pawned their plate. Pictures missing from 
drawing-rooms, and supposed to have been sent to London 
to be re-framed, were accounted for, and more than one 
tradesman in the town stood guilty on his own confession of 
having entrusted a portion of his stock to the loving 
avuncular guardianship of Mr. Sweetapple. 

The air of Bishop Orton was heavy with scandal, and the 



1 28 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

editor of the local organ, who was wont to be terribly wittv 
in his leaders, was obliged to handle the subject very 
gingerly. 

Had he not howled aloud in his misery that the timepiece 
presented to him by the town as a testimonial, and a mark 
of parochial gratitude for his glorious battle in defence of 
the parish pump, was in the fiery furnace? 

All day Saturday the town talked of nothing but the fire 
and the arrest of young Sweetapple, and on Sunday mornin°- 
the church was crowded, for everybody wanted to see 
everybody else and renew the discussion. 

Several gentlemen did not put in an appearance, owin°- 
to a little accident to their Sunday suits, and more than one 
lady preferred staying away to showing by her diminished 
finery that the great event had affected her wardrobe. 

Still, the church was crammed when the Rev James 
Dawson took his place. 

His face was very pale as he came from the vestry, but 
he walked to his desk with a firm step. 

And then first a general " Oh ! " and next a titter ran 
through the sacred edifice. 

The rev. gentleman's surplice was burnt in three places ! 
***** 

Parson "Jemmy," as the folks of Bishop Orton used to 
■call their good-hearted pastor, got over the shame and 
humiliation of that burnt surplice in time, and his flock 
thought none the worse of him for it. 

They learned through it the sore straits to which his 
poverty and the burden of a poor bed-ridden old mother 
had reduced him. 

They learned, too, in time, the life of self-denial he had 
Hcd that he might minister to her wants, and it came to the 



A SURPLICE. 129 



ears of the county families. That winter "a testimonial to 
the Rev. James Dawson " was announced, and a good round 
sum subscribed — a sum so round that it lit up the dull, grey 
sky of his life with pleasant sunbeams, and enabled him to 
soothe his mother's last hours with many comforts she must 
otherwise have gone without. 

Ned's gun went no more to Mr. Sweetapple's, neither 
did the brand-new surplice his congregation presented him 
with. 

There are hundreds of poor, starving clergymen in this 
land of ours — Christian gentlemen who toil on and bear their 
heavy burden without a sigh. Should any such light upon 
this true story, I hope they will not rush away and incon- 
tinently imitate the Rev. '' Jemmy." 

I am not at all sure that all congregations would act so 
kindly and thoughtfully as did the Bishop Ortonites if they 
found out that their parson was in the habit of "popping 
his surplice. 



>> 



Pledge XL 
A SILVER WATCH. 

" Play you another fifty up, and bet you a dollar on the 
game ! " 

The speaker was one of the flash young gentlemen 
who haunt suburban billiard-rooms, who carry chalk in their 
pockets, and call the marker " Jack." 

The person spoken to was a well-dressed youth, with b 
refined, pleasing face, but pale and careworn. 

"No, thanks," he answered, "I'll pay you what I've 
lost, and go. I have an appointment." He pulled a few 
shillings from his pocket and handed them to his opponent, 
paid for the table, and left the room. 

" What's the matter with the young 'un, Jack ? " said the 
flash young gentleman to the marker ; " he seems down in 
the mouth." 

The marker gave a knowing wink. " He's goin' where 
two or three o' the young coves as used to come here 's 
gorn. To the devil." 

***** 

Outside the Lord Elgin, right under the big red 
lamp on which the legend "Billiards and Pool" was 
inscribed in milk-white letters, Carl Hartzberg stood 
thinking. 

It was he who had just left the billiard-room above, and 
he was waiting here because he had an appointment. He 
was expecting his "young lady." 



A SILVER WATCH 131 

She came round the corner presently, a pretty, 
modest-looking girl, apparently about the same age as 
Carl. 

He met her in a brusque, off-hand way, and said sharply, 
" I thought I told you to be here at nine? " 

'■' Yes, dear, but I couldn't get away before. I was kept 
late at the warehouse." 

" All right, Lottie. Forgive me. I'm cross and out of 
sorts to-night. I'm in great trouble." 

"Oh, Carl, what trouble ?" 

The girl looked up at him with anxious eyes. 

" Well, I can't tell you all " — here the lad's voice trembled 
■ — " but I'm afraid I must go away." 

The girl caught his arm and clutched it nervously. 

" Carl, don't deceive me. Tell me, are you not in 
trouble about money? Oh, I knew," she went on when 
he made no reply, " I knew that those young fellows 
you have been about with would do you no good. 
Oh, Carl, why didn't you see more of me, and less of 
them ? " 

" God help me, Lottie, I wish I had. If I'd listened to 
you I should never have been in the mess I am in now." 

"Tell me the worst, Carl." 

She looked so earnestly into his face that the young man 
changed colour. 

" The worst ! What do you mean ? " he stammered. 

" Do you think I have been blind all these months, Carl? 
You have been betting and gambling. Where has the 
money come from ? " 

" Listen, Lottie, and I'll tell you. I shall feel easier 
when it's off my mind. When I got hard up and couldn't 
pay what I lost over the races and the billiards, I — I 



THREE BRASS BALLS. 



borrowed some money in the City. I meant to pay it back, 
■upon my soul I did. I used the money I collected for the 
firm, little sums of five and six pounds. I was sure I should 
win over the Derby and be able to pay them back, and I 
lost, and now, oh, Lottie, I don't know what I shall do. 
The quarterly accounts were sent in again to-night, and to- 
morrow all will be known." 

The girl's face had gone whiter and whiter as her young 
sweetheart stammered out his dreadful story. 

She had not suspected this. She knew he was a clerk 
in the City, and that his salary was small, and she knew he 
-could not afford to gamble and keep fast company night 
after night. But the worst she had anticipated was that he 
;had run into debt. 

For a time the shock was so terrible she could not 
speak. 

Carl misinterpreted her silence. 

" Lottie," he cried, with a trembling voice, "you despise 
me, you shrink away from me. I deserve it." 

She was by his side in a moment. 

" No, Carl — no. I love you as I never loved you before, 
and I pity you. Let others judge you harshly, I will not. 
Oh, Carl, Carl ! I would have given my life to have saved 
you this shame." 

He caught her to his breast in the quiet street. 

" God bless you, Lottie, for those words. They will com- 
fort me when I am far away-" 

" Far away ! " 

"Yes; I must seek safety in flight. I cannot face the 
exposure, and perhaps — perhaps the dock.' 5 

The girl shuddered. 

" Yes/' he continued, " I will tell you all. To-morrow 



A SILVER WATCH 



1 shall get away. I will write to you, but you must never 
let anyone know my address." 

" And your father and mother, Carl? It will kill them." 

" Don't talk like that, Lottie, or I shall go mad. Poor 
mother ! — poor old dad ! — I dare not tell them. You 
must go to them when I am gone and break it gently to 
them." 

Talking earnestly, the girl and her lover went through 
the quiet streets. At ten o'clock Carl left Lottie at 
her mother's door, and kissing her passionately hurried 
home. 

***** 

Carl Hartzberg the elder sat waiting for his boy to come 
home. 

Mrs. Hartzberg, who was an invalid, had gone to bed,, 
and the old gentleman was left alone. 

His face was grave and anxious, for these illnesses of 
his wife's were becoming more and more serious. The 
doctor said she required rest, and that her strength must 
be kept up with delicacies. And Carl Hartzberg was poor. 
He had had a hard fight with the world, and the task of 
educating his family had told heavily on him. Twenty 
years ago he had left his native land and wandered to the 
famous home of freedom — the refuge for the exile of every 
clime. 

Carl Hartzberg in his hot youth had spoken too boldly 
for the Fatherland. He had been compelled to fly with 
his young wife and seek an alien shore. His name was 
treasured still in the annals of his native town. It was a 
name which had been borne in the quaint old German stadt 
for generations unblemished. But Carl had dared to be a 
Radical and zealous in the cause of liberty. 



134 THREE BRASS BALLS. 



So when danger threatened he had wandered forth and 
found a home among strangers. He had had to begin life 
anew, but, aided by his faithful Gretchen, he had struggled 
bravely, and the children that had been born to them had 
always had a comfortable home. Now the poor old frau 
had done her work, and the busy hands were weak. He, 
too, was going down the hill, and once again trouble had 
come to him. 

In the great depression of trade the German firm for 
whom he had been the English agent had failed, and that 
very day he had received a letter from Hamburg stating 
that his agency was closed. 

Of his children only Carl was now left him. One son 
had married and had a home of his own to keep together ; 
another had gone to a far-away country and forgotten them; 
and now Carl, his handsome Carl, was his sole comfort and 
support. 

Often when he felt the feebleness of age creeping on, 
and thought of the day when he should be past work, he 
comforted himself with the thought that Carl would help 
them. Carl was clever, he would be a great man, and keep 
his poor old father and mother, and hand down the name 
untarnished to another generation. 

Eleven struck, and as the chimes died away Carl let 
himself in, and came to where his father sat. 

"You are late, mein poy," said the old man, kindly 

" Yes, father. I saw Lottie home." 

" Ah ! And how is Mees Lottie ?" 

" Oh, she's all right, father." 

" I am glad of dat, mein sohn. She shall be just ze sort 
of frau for you. Zebonnie Englisher madchen, dere is none 
like zem." 



A SILVER WATCH. i 35 



Twenty years in England had not made old Hartzberg a 
fluent talker. 

" Sit you down, Carl. You are tired, mein sohn." 

" Yes, I am, father, rather." 

"You work too hard in ze Citee. Ah, you all be has 
partner some fine day." 

Carl gave an involuntary sigh. 

" Ah, mein poy," said the old man, his eyes filling with 
tears; " I sank Gott efry day He have gif me such a sohn. 
Your mudder is veak, and I am an old man ; but you vill tak 
care of us, vill not you, ven de poor old fadder can't not 
vork no more ? " 

A great sob rose in the young lad's throat. He ran to his 
father and kissed him as he used to do when he was a little 
child. Then, with a faltering voice, he cried, " God bless 
you, dear old dad ! " and ran from the room, leaving the old 
man in a state of amazement. 

***** 

The next morning Carl went into his mother's bed- 
room, and bade her good day. She thought the tears in 
his eyes were for her suffering, and she tried to comfort 
him. 

His father had gone out after the early breakfast, and 
there was no one to notice that Carl carried his little 
portmanteau out of the house with him. 

That evening Lottie Curtis came with a white, frightened 
face to see the old couple. She was Carl's messenger. He 
had not dared to leave a confession behind him. To his 
brave little sweetheart he entrusted the task of breaking the 
awful news to his parents. 

Lottie found the old gentleman alone, and bit by bit 
stammered out her terrible secret. 



136 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

He seemed at first not to understand. 

But when the full meaning of the girl's story — a tale told 
with sobs and tears — dawned upon the unhappy father, a 
spasm of fearful anguish swept across his face, leaving the 
features distorted. 

For a brief space a terrible silence reigned ; then, with a 
wild cry, he fell upon his knees, and raising his trembling 
hands to heaven, moaned aloud, " Oh, Gott, forgif him ; Oh, 
mein sohn, mein sohn ! " 

Presently Lottie calmed him a little, and he clasped her 
hand and clung to her. She was something for him to love 
now. She had seen his boy last. But he broke down again, 
and, laying his head upon the girl's shoulder, sobbed like a 
child. 

Night fell upon the little household and found the young 
girl and the old man still in tears. The two broken hearts 
clung to each other in their agony, and it was late ere they 
parted. Then the father went sadly up stairs and laid him 
down bv the side of the old wife, and told her the first lie 
his lips had ever uttered. 

" Carl has had to go into the country for the firm, 
Gretchen," he said. " He sent for his portmanteau ; he 
started in a hurry." 

And the old lady smiled and blessed her boy. " See how 
he is honoured by his employers," she whispered. " Ah, 
Carl, I thank God for giving us such a son." 

And down in a seaport town Carl Hartzberg lay that 
night in a little inn, tortured with fear and remorse. 

Ere he left he had sold all he possessed to raise sufficient 
money to get away with. 

But one thing he had not sold. It was the silver 
watch which had been his grandfather's and his father's, 



A SILVER WATCH 



!37 



and which his father had given him on his fourteenth 
birthday. He could not part with that, for it was an 
heirloom, and there was a legend in the family that to part 
with it was unlucky ; but he needed every penny he could 
get, so he pawned it, determining directly he earned some 
money to send the ticket to Lottie with the sum lent on it. 

*J> *\? vL. il» 

»}^ *V' »P *T' 

On the following day the firm discovered his defalcations, 
and about the same time that the discovery was made Carl 
Hartzberg's father called and was shown into their private 
room. 

The interview was a painful one. The old man, with 
tearful eyes and a trembling voice, came to plead for mercy 
— to beg that the good name he had won by twenty years 
of honest work and upright conduct in the land of his 
adoption might not be publicly disgraced. 

He pleaded, too, for his boy He told them what a good 
son he had been. 

"And mein poor frau," he wailed, dashing the tears from 
his eyes, " if she should know dis ting it vould kill her. I 
am poor, shentlemen, but if I can pay dis money I vill starve 
to save mein frau and mein sohn." 

The partners were stern business men, but the sight of 
the old man's agony overcame their first scruples. Thev 
would promise nothing more than this, however — no active 
search should be made for the present. 

"You say he has gone away," said the senior partner. 
" Well, let him keep away. If he returns to London he 
must be arrested. If he comes within reach, and we take no 
steps, it will be said that we can be robbed with impunity 
We should have to prosecute him as an example to the 
others." 



138 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

The old gentleman thanked the partners, and with a 
bowed head went sadly home. 

***** 

Carl's mother in time learned the truth. 

The shock was terrible, but Lottie was a ministering 
angel then. She came to them, and buoyed the poor 
mother's heart with hope. Carl was safe somewhere, and 
he would soon write to her. 

Sure enough a letter came, telling her he had been lucky 
— that under an assumed name he had got work. He had 
pretended that he had come over from Germany to get a 
situation, and as someone was wanted who spoke German 
he got the place without a character. The letter was full of 
repentance and remorse, and promises to atone for the 
past. 

Lottie answered the letter, enclosing a line in the 
mother's trembling hand — just a message of love and 
forgiveness to her poor lamb that had gone astray. 

A week afterwards Carl wrote again, enclosing Lottie the 
ticket of the silver watch, and bidding her take care of it 
till he sent her the money to redeem it. 

The letter was never delivered, but three days afterwards 
a postman was arrested charged with stealing letters. His 
lodgings were searched, and among other things found 
there was Carl's letter containing the pawn-ticket. Carl 
was wanted as a witness by the Post Office authorities. 
There was an address in the letter, and the ticket was made 
out to Carl Hartzberg, No. , St. Mary-axe. 

Carl had pawned his watch in the City the day before 
his flight, and the pawnbroker's shop being opposite his 
employer's place of business, the assistant knew him, and 
put down his right address. 



A SILVER WATCH. i 39 

A clerk from the solicitor's office went to St. Mary-axe 
with the ticket and asked for Carl Hartzberg. He was re- 
ferred to the senior partner, and explained his business. 

" I called here to see if the owner was here," he said, 
" before sending to Portsmouth." 

"Oh," said the senior partner; "then you have his 
address at Portsmouth." 

" Yes. It is on the letter in which the ticket was 
enclosed. (Pulling out the letter.) Here it is." 

The senior partner took the letter, made a note of the 
address, and returned it to the clerk. 

" You will subpcena him from Portsmouth, I suppose ? " 
he said. 

" As he is not here, certainly. He will be an important 
witness." 

" You can save yourself the trouble. He will be in 
London the day after to-morrow, and I will let you know 
his address." 

The clerk went away, and that afternoon a City police- 
officer went down to Portsmouth with the warrant for the 
arrest of Carl Hartzberg the younger. 

The junior partner was away collecting orders and cash 
in the country, and the senior partner acted according to 
his own notions. 

" His name will be in the paper over this post office rob- 
bery," he said, " and the clerks will say we don't mind 
being robbed if we take no steps. Better take them at 
once than let it appear they are forced on us." 

***** 

Carl Hartzberg returning to his lodgings in Portsmouth 
that night found a tall man waiting to see him. 

He o-ave a little cry of fear, for the thought of arrest was 



140 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

always in his mind, and turned to run, but it was too late- 
The tall man stood in front of the door 

" Come quietly, young gentleman, and then there'll be no 
disgrace," he said. " I'm your brother, and I've come to 
see you, and Ave are going out for a walk. You don't want 
to be handcuffed, do you ? " 

The lad, alternately white with fear and red with shame, 
shook his head. 

That night they went up to London by the mail train. 
Half-way there was a terrific crash. Carl went flying 
against the detective, and both of them lay very still 
with a lot of things on top of them, and then the air was 
filled with shrieks and groans. Carl wriggled out feeling 
stunned and bruised, but the detective lay quite still. 

When Carl had shaken himself he looked about him, and 
a fearful sight met his eyes. 

They had run into a train of trucks, and a lot of the 
carriages were smashed. The line was strewn with the 
wreckage, and in the dim light he could see people fighting 
and struggling among the debris. 

Those who were unhurt leapt out of the carriages and 
helped to extricate whom they could. Some were beyond 
help, terribly crushed and mangled, and dead. Carl stood 
like a man in a dream, and rubbed his eyes, wondering 
where he was. 

Presently he heard a stifled groan. There was a o-entle- 
man lying under the wreck of a first-class carriage. Carl 
rushed to him, and proceeded to throw the cushions and 
seats and the portmanteaus off him. 

Soon he had him free, and then he dragged him out and 
laid him on the bank. 

He was quite senseless. The other people w*?re working 



A SILVER WATCH. 141 

away at the sufferers still in the wreck, and Carl called to 
them in vain. if he only had a drop of brandy ! 

Something shining caught his eye. He ran to the broken- 
down carriage. It was the gentleman's brandy flask, and 
there also, beside it, was a canvas bag. 

Carl picked it up. It was very heavy. 

The gentleman still lay senseless on the bank, so Carl 
poured some brandy into his mouth. 

Gradually he gathered his senses together and sat up. 
Then Carl said to him, " Sir, here is a bag of money I 
found in the wreck of your carriage. Does it belong to 
you?" 

" Yes," said the gentleman eagerly. " Oh, thank you. 
There is nearly a thousand pounds there ! " 

The voice startled the lad. He looked earnestly in the 
gentleman's face, then gave a cry of shame. 

It was the junior partner of the firm he had robbed of 
about five-and-twenty pounds. 

The cry astonished the gentleman. 

Then he, too, recognised his deliverer in the lad who had 
given him a thousand pounds when he might have run off 
with it and no one have been the wiser. 

Carl told his story, and then they both went to look for 
the detective. 

They found him laid on the bank, covered with a rug. 
He was dead. 

Vf, 5|C "T* JjC 5(» 

A fortnight afterwards there was a little family party at 
the house of Herr Hartzberg. 

First, there was the old man himself, with a long absent 
smile once more lighting up his kind old face ; then there 
was the frau in an easy chair, propped up with pillows, and 



H2 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

looking, with a whole world of love in her eyes, at a young 
couple who sat opposite to her. 

One of them was Lottie Curtis, a bright red blush upon 
her cheeks, and her little hand clasped, O so tightly ! by a 
young gentleman whom we have seen before. 

The junior partner had been grateful both for his life and 
his money. When he returned to London with a full 
knowledge of the lad's story, he went straight to the 
magistrate who had granted the warrant and explained that 
circumstances had come to light which induced him to 
withdraw from the prosecution. 

The junior partner did more than this. He was so 
convinced that Carl had been tempted to take the money 
fully intending to pay it back, and that he had bitterly 
repented, that he determined to give him another 
chance, and so the lad was to travel for them at a good 
salary. 

It is the night before Carl starts on his first journey, and 
mother and father and Lottie are all with him talking over 
the great event. 

"Ah, Carl," says the father, "the good Gott has heard 
mein prayers and gif me pack mein sohn again." 

The old mother puts out her thin hand and takes her 
boy's, and strokes it, and as he comes nearer to her and 
drops at her feet, she lays that trembling hand upon his curly 
hair and blesses him. 

And somehow Lottie has crept up to her, and presently 
she kneels too, and then the old lady, her eyes filling with 
tears, blesses them both. 

Supper comes, and sentiment disappears for a time with 
the savoury smell of the good housewife's little German 
dishes. 



A SILVER WATCH 143 

At supper Carl pulls out his watch to look at the time, 
rle has given his evidence, claimed the ticket, and 
•edeemed it. 

" I shall never part with this again, father," he says, 
is he puts it gently back ; " but it didn't bring me such bad 
uck, after all ; for if I hadn't pawned it the pawn-ticket 
wouldn't have been stolen, and I should still have been an 
sutcast." 

" The ways of Providence are mysterious, mein sohn ; let 
us tank the good Gott for His mercy " 



Pledge XII. 
A PAIR OF BOOTS. 

Barton'S-BUILDINGS was doomed. The fiat had gone 
forth that the world should know Barton's-buildings no 
more. 

It was a vile, unholy place — a collection of crazy tene- 
ments where the poorest of the poor herded together in 
squalor and filth and pestilence. It was a place where men, 
women, and children lay together twenty in a room, like 
pigs in a sty, where fever and disease were always to be 
found and a policeman very seldom. 

It had a bad name had Barton's-buildings, and when 
people heard that it was to be pulled down under the pro- 
visions of the Artisans Dwellings Act, it was felt that an 
eyesore was about to disappear from the metropolis. 

It was the last day in Barton's-buildinsrs. 

From early morning tne narrow street had been blocked 
with the goods of the colony 

Up from cellars and kitchens, down from top floors 
and garrets, came the inhabitants, laden with such things 
as they possessed. 

They had lingered on till the last, many of these poor 
creatures refusing to stir until the strong arm of the law 
forced them from their hiding-place. 

The police were in the alley, the inspector had been 
from house to house ; tears and oaths were alike ineffectual 
— the hour had come, and the little colony must wander 



A PAIR OF BOOTS. 145 

forth and settle where it could. To-morrow the pick and 
the spade of the labourer would ring out loud and clear, 
and brick by brick the place would be razed to the ground. 

Slowly the people file out, bringing with them their scanty 
treasures. 

Here and there a truck is called into requisition by the 
property-owners, the nobility of the buildings, who possess 
something carryable in the shape of a bed and perhaps a 
couple of chairs and a frying-pan. 

But there are few families who cannot bear among them 
their furniture and effects, for the effects, as a rule, are 
small and the families are large. 

It is a ghastly exodus, a procession of misery such as few 
modern towns could furnish. It is in the heart of London, 
the jewelled mistress of the cities, that penury and starva- 
tion are to be found in their most terrible forms. It is in 
the garden bright with flowers that the rankest weeds 
abound. 

Sorrowfully the outcasts come from the rookery that has 
been their home for years. Vile and awful as the dens 
were, they have become attached to them ; they have grown 
used to the foul air, the reeking walls, and the crumbling 
staircases. They have crept here at night and found 
shelter ; wandering forth day by day to fight for bread, they 
have known that hither could they bear it and find the 
young in the nest, that they had somewhere to lay their 
weary bones and aching heads, somewhere to call "home." 

The bulk of the last lingerers have passed away, some to 
other rookeries, some to the workhouse, some to shelter 
which they have procured at the cost of half their poor 
earnings. 

Day by day, as the old haunts of the poor are destroyed 

K 



i 4 6 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

to make room for palatial "model lodgings "and "artisans'' 
dwellings," it has become a harder task for them to find 
shelter. The gorgeous buildings reared on the site of their 
vaunted homes are far beyond their humble means, and the 
few existing places of the old-fashioned sort are crammed 
to suffocation. 

But go forth they must and look for shelter " some- 
where." It is not the duty of the law to inquire where, 
but to make them " move on." 

Out of Barton's-buildings the exiles pass, lingering sadly 
as they go. Old men and women come out like rats from 
their holes, blinking in the daylight — some of them so aged 
and infirm that they have to be borne in the arms of their 
kindred. 

Here comes a strange creature with blurred features and 
misshapen limbs, trembling in her yellow rags and moaning 
with terror. It is ten long years since she saw the outer 
world. Why ? That no one can tell you. There are 
mysteries in the courts and alleys of Babylon that none can 
divine. 

There go an old man and woman, with their little grand- 
daughter guiding their tottering steps. The old man and 
his wife made toys, and the child took them out and sold 
them. The man is half imbecile, and he is crying and 
saying that he shall die in the streets. He has lived his life 
in Barton's-buildings, and has taken root there. 

So through the long day the panorama of human 
wretchedness passes before the eyes of the official on- 
looker. His task is nearly over, the houses are all but 
empty. Those who remain will be flung into the street if 
they refuse to go, and their belongings, if they have any, will be 
flung after theim. and then the work of ejection will be done. 



A PAIR OF BOOTS. 147 

The police make another tour of inspection. All gone. 
Nothing but filth and rubbish and rags left now to tell of 
the vanished colony. 

Stay. What is this lying here, at the foot of the stairs? 
A woman. And over her bends a man — a thin, wretched 
creature, with sunken eyes and haggard cheeks. He has 
dragged himself from the rags where he lay, the ague 
racking his every bone, and has taken his blind wife by the 
hand and told her that the hour has come — that they must 
wander forth into the streets. 

Down from the attic he has crawled with trembling knees, 
leading the sightless creature, the only thing to care for him 
that he has left. 

Five years ago Nelly Stevens looked upon her husband's 
face one winter morning for the last time. The state of 
life into which it had pleased God to call her was to toy 
with sudden death for a paltry wage at a great firework 
factory. When the usual explosion came Nelly was dragged 
out from a heap of mangled women. 

Some were dying, some were dead and dismembered. 
Nelly was one of the lucky ones. She only lost her eyes, 
and could do no more work for the remainder of her 
days. 

To the hospital in due time came her husband, and led 
her back to the only home he could afford, now that he had 
to work for both. 

For he too played with death that he might live, but it 
was a longer game than Nell's. Death came slowly to the 
looking-glass silverer. The long hours in a close room 
absorbing the mercury into the system led rather to disable- 
ment than death. There is a delightful condition of 
body called the shakes which comes to silverers after a time. 



148 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

It is a modified sort of St. Vitus's dance, a trembling of the 
limbs and a perpetual quivering of the muscles. 

Jack was down with the shakes about the time Nelly's 
eyes were lost that boys might have cheap squibs and 
crackers, and, of course, he was no use as a silverer. There 
weren't many jobs that a man with dancing arms and legs 
could do, and Jack dropped from thirty shillings a week to 
twelve. At that price the fragments of a constitution still 
left to him were utilised. 

So it came about that the shaky husband and the blind 
wife drifted to an attic in Barton's-buildings, and there 
they struggled on with love and an occasional meal to cheer 
them. 

Jack had only one comfort in his wife's blindness. She 
couldn't see the wreck he had become. It was only when 
in the cold night they huddled close together for warmth 
that she felt the arm round her quivering and trembling. 
That was the cold, he told her, and took it away. 

Perhaps it was a blessing too when the food ran short, 
and Jack was able to put it all on her side of the table and 
make a great noise with his jaws, and smack his lips with a 
fidelity to nature worthy of a pantomimic artist. 

But blind people have keen perceptions, and Nelly 
soon found out that her husband was growing weaker and 
weaker, and that the fatal mercury had too surely done its 
work. 

His flesh and blood were utilised in outdoor work. He 
was a sort of human scarecrow to frighten thievish boys 
and old ladies in search of firewood from a builder's yard, 
and, having the necessary mercury in his system, he became 
a human barometer. It was the winter and the wet weather 
that found out the weak spot. He suffered agonies with 



A PAIR OF BOOTS. 149 

rheumatism and ague, but he battled on bravely and 
brought his twelve shillings a week home regularly to his 
blind wife. 

Things were at their worst when Barton's-buildings was 
doomed. Long exposure to the weather had broken up the 
human barometer, and he couldn't stand in the yard. He 
hadn't been to work for a fortnight v;hen the last day came,, 
and Nelly had cried her heart out over him, for his moans 
told her the anguish he was suffering, and the tears had 
poured down from her sightless eyes on to his cheeks as she 
bent over him and comforted him. 

They had kept body and soul together as the poor do. 
Their little possessions were all in safe keeping in a 
beautiful fireproof warehouse. 

The ejectment notice had struck dismay into their 
hearts. Like many another member of the colony, they 
had lingered on till the last because they had nowhere else 
to go. 

But when the day came and the tramp of the neighbours 
and the bustle below told them that the utmost limit of 
indulgence was passed, then and then only did the full 
horror of the situation burst upon them. 

Go they must. What was it to the law that death and 
starvation lay before them ? Their attic was wanted that 
the "artisan" might have a suite of apartments in a palatial 
hotel. The Government had taken the artisan under its 
protection, in order that he might have rooms at from ten 
to fifteen shillings a week, instead of paying, as heretofore, 
the extravagant sum of five shillings and seven and six- 
pence, or wasting his substance on a nice little cottage with 
a garden in the suburbs for about four. 

Jack crawled from his rags, shouldered his bundle, and 



150 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

took his blind wife by the hand, for the hour had come, and 
they were driven out. Shaking and trembling, and racked 
with pain, he got her down to the foot of the staircase, and 
then she gave way, as weak women will, and fell down and 
cried to think that they were leaving the shelter of that vile 
place which had been home to them so long. 

The policeman was used to such sights by this time, and 
so he just bade them " Come out of that " in the kindest 
tone consistent with his uniform. 

Then Nelly pulled herself together, and held out her hand, 
and Jack took it and staggered out into the street. 

" We must find somewhere to sleep to-night, Jack, dear." 

" Ay, ay, my lass," he answered, looking back, " we'll 
find a place — somewhere." 

So the last couple passed out of Barton's-buildings, and 
there was nothing to hinder the Artisans Dwellings Act 
doing its noble work. 

***** 

Night came down on the London streets ; a cold, heart- 
less night, with a keen, searching east wind. The street 
lamps were lit, and the shops were gay with gas, when six 
o'clock struck. But few people stopped to peer through 
the plate-glass windows. The playful breeze had a trick of 
darting round corners at you, and nipping your nose and 
cutting your eyes, so coat collars were turned up and foot- 
steps bent hastily homeward. 

Toiling wearily along a main thoroughfare came the man 
with the shakes leading his blind wife. 

The east wind cut through him like a knife, and he 
crawled along in the supremest physical agony, trying not 
to shiver lest the sightless creature holding his hand should 
know how cold and wretched he was. 



A PAIR OF BOOTS. 151 

On through the lighted thoroughfare they passed, till they 
came to where the gas was dimmer and the shops less gay, 
and so out into a northern suburb of the metropolis. 

It was there that the only friend Jack had in the world, 
an old fellow-workman, lived. Of him he was going to 
crave shelter for awhile, till he could get a job and find 
another home. 

The thought of this refuge had buoyed him with hope 
throughout the afternoon's tramp. 

They reached the house and found strangers in it. Jack's 
mate had left a fortnight since. 

The door was shut in their faces, and the blind woman 
and her husband turned their faces once more to the pitiless 
night. 

What was to be done ? 

There was a common lodging-house not far off, but they 
had no money. 

" We must go to the casual ward, Nelly," the man said 

presently, with a faltering voice. " There's no help for it." 

The woman shuddered. Had it come to this at last ! O, 

anything but that ! She was tired and faint, and burst out 

crying. 

They were just opposite a pawnbroker's then, and 
suddenly an idea came to Jack. 

"Stay there a minute, Nell," he said, "while I go and 
ask the way." 

Then he darted into the pawnbroker's, slipped off his 
boots, which were still good, and they lent him a shilling on 
them. 

He came out and walked on a little way, and then gave a 
cry of pleasure. 

" Here's luck, Nell," he said, as cheerily as his chattering 



152 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

teeth would let him. " I've found a shilling in my pocket 
You shall have a bed and a crust to-night, after all, Nell; 
and to-morrow I'll go to work and earn something." 

He felt the hand he held tighten in his. The terror of 
the casual ward had passed away for a time. The pavement 
numbed the shoeless feet terribly- An icy thrill shot up the 
aching limbs to the heart, and seemed to grip it with fingers 
of stone, but Jack kept bravely on his way till they came to 
the spot where he knew the lodging-house used to be. 

In its place they found a ruin — a wilderness of bricks and 
rubbish. 

And in the faint light of the quivering lamps Jack read 
that this was the site of a new block of artisans' dwellings. 

The shock of disappointment and despair completed the 
work the cold and the fatigue had commenced. The brave 
limbs failed at last, and Jack could go no further. 

The blind wife felt his hand slip from hers, and heard him 
sink to the ground. 

" God help us this night, Nell," he moaned, " for I can go 
no further. I've lost the use of my limbs." 

" Oh, Jack, try. Let us go to the workhouse — anywhere. 
The cold will kill you." 

Jack staggered up and made a desperate effort, but 
his limbs refused their office. He clung to his wife for 
support. 

Across the ruin he could see one house but half destroyed. 
The walls and a portion of the roof still stood. 

" If I can crawl yonder, Nell," he said presently, " I can 
lie there a bit out of the wind. Hold me up and I'll lead 
you." 

Dragging himself as best he could across the heaps of 
rubbish and scattered brick, his feet cut and gashed at every 



A PAIR OF BOOTS. 153 

step, Jack brought himself and his wife to the little havep 
at last. 

There was one corner quite out of the wind, and here he 
fell down on a heap of rubbish and lay quite still. 

He had fainted with the pain and fatigue and the exposure. 
Nell called him, but he did not answer. 
Then she knelt down and passed her hands along his 
prostrate body. 

She was terrified. Blind and alone in the dark night on 
a rude tract of waste ground, what could she do ? 
She must go for help at once. 

Staggering and falling, groping blindly across the brick 
heaps and mounds of rubbish, she went out into the night 
calling, " Help ! Help ! " 

Suddenly she felt a heavy blow on the forehead, and then 
she knew no more. Wandering in her blind helplessness 
she had come full force against the carcase of a half- 
destroyed building, and the blow had stunned her. 
***** 
When consciousness returned to her she was warm and 
comfortable, but her head ached and was wrapped in 
bandages. She thought she had been dreaming, and had 
just woke up in her own home in Barton's-buildings. 
" Jack," she said softly, " where are you ? " 
A woman's voice answered her. 
" What is it, my dear ? " 
Then she recollected all. 

She sat up in an agony of fear, trying with her sightless 
eyes to pierce the eternal darkness. 

" Where ami?" she cried—" where' s Jack?" 
" You're in the hospital," answered the woman. " Who's 
Jack ? " 



154 THREE BRASS BALLS 

" My husband. Oh, please tell me where he is ! " 

" My good soul, I dare say he's all right," answered the 
woman, trying to comfort her. " Don't you worry yourself 
— you must be quite still if you want to get well." 

" How did I come here ? " asked Nell. 

" You were found among the ruins where they've pulled 
down the houses to build model lodgings," answered the 
woman. "Somebody heard you calling for help, and they 
found you lying senseless, with a nasty cut across your fore- 
head." 

" But Jack, my husband, did they find him too ?" 

The nurse did not know what to say, but it was her 
business to keep her patient quiet, and so she answered, 
" Oh, yes, he's all right ! " 

And then she forced the blind woman to lie still, and gave 
her an opiate to send her to sleep again, for the wound was 
dangerous, and any excitement might lead to bad con- 
sequences. 

As a matter of fact, Jack had not been found. When the 
blind woman was discovered bleeding the cry for help was 
explained, and she was carried away to the hospital. 

Who was to know that among the ruins of one of the 
dismantled houses lay a dying man ? 

While she was unconscious in the ward of the hospital, 
Jack lay senseless where he had fallen on the heap of 
rubbish. 

The night grew colder and colder, and the limbs of the 
wanderer grew stiffer and stiffer. 

He never woke from the syncope into which he had 
fallen to miss the blind wife who had wandered forth for 
help. 

He lay there calm and still, paying no rent for two whole 



A PAIR OF BOOTS. 155 



days and nights, and when the workmen came to that part 
of the ground and discovered a bootless tramp there was no 
difficulty in finding a home for him. 

In the parish mortuary, not yet swept away to make room 
for artisans' dwellings, this tired toiler was allowed to lie 
undisturbed by ejections. 

They put beside him, for the purposes of identification, 
all that was found upon him — a pawn-ticket for a pair of 
boots. 

* * * * * 

On the spot where Barton's-buildings stood there is now 
a block of magnificent houses, let out in suites of apartments. 
Dainty muslin curtains and neat blinds grace the windows. 
The " models" are governed by rules which require that all 
the tenants shall be respectable. Etiquette is studied here 
in all its branches. Gentlemen are requested not to lean out 
of window in their shirtsleeves, and dogs and cats are not 
allowed. Pianos on the three years' hire system are 
plentiful. 

Neat traps stop at the doors on Sundays, and little family 
parties emerge elegantly attired for a drive. 

These are the buildings designed and built under the 
provisions of the Artisans Dwellings Act. It is to provide 
these charming chambers that the poor are driven out into 
the street to find shelter where they can or perish by the way. 

To deny that the measure is beneficial in any sense would 
be absurd. It is a boon to the large class of well-to-do 
artisans, and clerks with moderate incomes, who don't want 
to be bothered with a house, and who find it convenient to 
be provided by philanthropy with elegant apartments at a 
less price than they could obtain them of the ordinary 
lodging-house keepers. 



156 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

For these the humbler artisans, and the myriad toilers 
whose means of obtaining a livelihood are limited and 
precarious, are driven forth; and daily they find the question, 
"Where shall I lay my head?" an enigma so difficult of 
solution that many of them give it up in despair and 
compromise the matter by selecting the churchyard or the 
workhouse. 

Of those who wandered forth from Barton's-buildings, I 
have but traced the fate of two. The shaky looking-glass 
silverer is at rest where the parish put him. He has found 
lodgings at last where he will lie until the burial-ground is 
required for " artisans' dwellings," and then perhaps his 
thinly-covered bones may be thrown up with the shovel and 
" moved on " once more. 

Tramping from casual ward to casual ward goes a poor 
sightless, ragged creature who once called the dead man 
husband. No loving hand leads her footsteps now ; the last 
ray of light has flickered out from the eternal darkness of 
her life. 

In God's good time she too will come to her rest, and in 
the land where blind eyes open she may look once more 
upon the face of him she then loved — the man who went 
forth homeless at the bidding of the law, and died in the 
interests of philanthropy and industrial dwellings. 

In that land there are many mansions. But they are not 
reared for the rich and well-to-do at the expense of the 
helpless poor. The wise and benevolent provisions of the 
Artisans Dwellings Act have not yet penetrated so far. 



Pledge XIII. 
A FLAT IRON. 

MRS. GRINHAM was in a dreadful way about her boy 
Jemmy. Jemmy had been dispatched upon a private and 
confidential errand an hour since, and he ought to have 
been back in ten minutes. 

Jemmy was such a good little boy, always doing his 
errands so nicely and so quickly, that his mother began to 
fear something must have happened to him. Furthermore, 
there was this fact to heighten her anxiety — Jemmy would 
have in his possession a small sum of money — a little 
temporary accommodation on good security, which Mrs. 
Grinham had found it necessary to negotiate for. 

Mrs. Grinham this afternoon was the only figure in an 
English interior hardly picturesque enough to tempt the 
painter to reproduce it for Burlington House or Grosvenor 
Gallery connoisseurs. 

It was a dirty kitchen in a dirty house in a dirty street in 
Lisson-grove. Mrs. Grinham was dirty too, for she had 
been " tidying-up" — that is, she had raised a cloud of dust 
with a bald-headed broom, and given the little table a dry 
rub with the skirt of her dress, and had put some odd 
pieces of crockery in the sink and turned the tap on 
them. 

This last operation had been rendered necessary by the 
flight of time. It was nearly half-past five, and shortly 
after that hour Mr. Grinham would, as was his wont, return 



158 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

to the domestic haven which he had quitted at the same 
hour in the morning, and Mr. Grinham would require his tea. 

Presently Mrs. Grinham produced two cups and half a 
loaf and a small piece of butter from the cupboard, then 
she unscrewed a small paper and looked anxiously at the 
contents. 

Yes ; there were two teaspoonfuls left. 

Mrs. Grinham gave a sigh of relief. Her lord could have 
his tea, although Jemmy had not returned with the anxiously- 
expected proceeds of the hypothecation of his mother's 
flat-iron. 

Thanks to those two teaspoonfuls, Mr. Grinham's tea was 
ready for him whenever he liked to come. 

He came presently, dusty and dirty and tired from his 
day's work, his hands in his pocket and his clay pipe in his 
mouth. 

Mrs. Grinham wiped her hands on her apron, and began 
cutting bread-and-butter directly he appeared at the door- 
way 

Her husband flung his hat into a corner and himself into 
a chair. Then he held out his hand, and Mrs. Grinham put 
a slice of thick bread-and-butter into it. He gave a grunt 
of satisfaction. 

" Where's Jem? " he said presently, with his mouth full. 

"I don't know," answered Mrs. Grinham; "I'm eettine 
nervous about him. I expect he's gone after Punch and 
Judy or some orgin-man." 

Mr. Grinham gave a grunt of dissatisfaction this time. 
In ten minutes he would have put away all the available 
bread-and-butter, and then he would want a smoke, and he 
hadn't a bit of tobacco left. He wanted Jemmy to go and 
fetch him a screw. Life was all trouble to Mr. Grinham. 



A FLAT IRON 15.9 



Here he was tired with a day's work, and he might have to 
go and fetch his own tobacco or go without a smoke for 
a few minutes. Both alternatives were terrible to contem- 
plate. He finished his bread-and-butter, drained his cup, 
licked the spoon, and then looked wofully at his empty pipe, 

" Dang that there Jem ! he's never here when he's 
wanted," he growled. Then he pointed to his hat in the 
corner, and requested it might be given to him. 

Mrs. Grinham, like a dutiful wife, picked it up and put it 
on his head. He rose from the chair with a grunt, and 
slouched out of the house. 

Mr. Grinham was a blighted genius. He had a genius 
for doing nothing, and Fate had compelled him to work for 
his living. His principles were tinged with Communism, and 
he felt that he was oppressed and downtrodden by every- 
body who had twopence more than he had. He was fond 
of his wife and fond of his boy Jem in his lazy way. He 
was fond of them when they waited on him, and under- 
stood what he wanted with the least possible explanation. 

He wasn't a clever workman, and he didn't get much 
wages ; this, he felt, was another gross injustice. 

" Oh, if I was only rich," sighed Jem Grinham, "wouldn't 
I take it easy? " At present he was poor — so poor that he 
and his wife had hard work to keep their heads above 
water, and many were the shifts which the woman had 
to make to keep her lazy husband from sometimes going 
short of a meal. 

Jemmy, the boy, and she were contented enough. They did 
all they could to make " father" comfortable. They knew 
he had been well brought up and ought to have been a 
gentleman, and they felt how highly honoured they were in 
having him for a husband and father. 



160 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

When Mr. Grinham had departed in search of his 
tobacco, Jemmy's mother gave vent to her motherly anxiety. 
In her husband's presence she had restrained it. It was 
bad enough to be so pushed that the flat-iron had to go for 
a few coppers to carry on with, and now here was this 
worry about the boy. 

She had good cause to worry, for Jemmy had been gone 
over an hour and a half just two streets off. 

Mrs. Grinham went and stood at the door and looked up 
the street and down the street, and then she thought she 
would run across to the pawnbroker's and see if Jem had 
been there. He might have been run over, or lured away 
for the fourpence and his poor clothes. A hundred stories 
of the dangers of the London streets surged up into Mrs. 
Grinham's mind and increased her anxiety. 

She was still standing at the door when a gentleman 
stopped in front of her. He was looking for the number 
of the house, but as the door was open he couldn't 
see it. 

" I beg your pardon, ma'am, but can you tell me if a Mrs 
Grinham lives here ? " he said presently. 

The woman's blood left her cheeks, and her heart gave a 
violent jump. Jemmy had been killed, and this gentleman 
had come to tell her about it. 

"Is it about my Jemmy, sir?" she gasped out. "I'm 
Mrs. Grinham." 

The gentleman raised his hat. 

" I beg your pardon, madam, but can I speak a few words 
with you indoors ? " 

Mrs. Grinham, still violently agitated, led the way to the 
kitchen, and dusted a chair for the gentleman. 

" You are, madam, I believe, Sarah Grinham, wife of 



A FLAT IRON. 161 



James Grinham, daughter of the late John Shuster, chimney- 
sweep, and sister of Charles Shuster ? " 

"That's me," said Mrs. Grinham ; "but I ain't heard 
anything o' my relations for years." 

" Madam, you are doubtless aware that your brother 
Charles had a considerable fortune." 

"I knew as he made a lot o' money buying up deadhosses 
in the Crimean war; but he never troubled us much." 

" Madam, he is, I am sorry to inform you, dead. He has 
died worth a large sum of money, and left it all to you 
to atone for his neglect of you while he was alive." 

"What!" 

Mrs. Grinham shrieked the word out. She fancied she 
was dreaming. A large sum of money ! Why, she'd 
almost forgotten she had a brother, it was so long since she 
had heard anything about him. 

The gentleman, who was a solicitor, and had been some 
time finding her out, gave her lengthy particulars of her 
fortune and of her brother's affairs, but she hardly caught a 
word he said, she was so bewildered. 

Presently Mr. Grinham came slouching in with his screw 
of tobacco. 

" Oh, Jem," shrieked his wife, " my brother Charles is 
dead, and he's left us a fortune ! " 

Mr. Grinham's clay pipe slipped out of his mouth and 
smashed itself on the floor. He sat down and took his hat off. 
| "A fortune!" 

He repeated it three times slowly. Then he looked round 
the dirty back kitchen with a look of unutterable loathing. 

" When can we have some of it to go on with ? " he 
asked presently. 

" My dear sir, if you will come to my office to-morrow 



1 62 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

—here is my card — I will arrange everything to your satis- 
faction and immediate advantage." 

The gentleman gave his card to Mr. Grinham, bowed, 
and went out. 

For two minutes neither husband nor wife spoke, then the 
man gathered himself together and said, " Sarah, have you 
got fourpence ? I must go and have a drink on the strength 
of this." And then his wife told him that she hadn't a 
penny in the place, and that reminded her that her son and 
heir, her boy Jemmy, heir to this big fortune, had gone out 
to pawn the flat-iron and hadn't come back again. 

"I'm so uneasy about Jemmy," she said. "Where can 
he be ? " 

" A fortune ! " answered her husband, thinking aloud. 

But the mother's heart, in spite of the sudden windfall, 
was heavy. She had won a fortune and lost her child on 
the selfsame night. 

***** 

The good ship Mayflower sailed from the East India 
Docks for Australia with a crew of forty men and eighty 
passengers. 

That was according to the owner's books. But there was 
a passenger of whom the owners knew nothing. He hadn't 
booked his berth or engaged with the firm as a seaman, and 
the ship was out at sea before he was discovered. 

Then a little white-faced London boy suddenly appeared 
on deck, to the amazement of everybody. 

" Curse you, you young rascal ! what the devil are you 
doing here ? " said the captain. 

" Please, sir," whimpered the boy, who had visions of being 
thrown overboard, " I wanted to go to sea and make my 
fortune, and I hid myself." 



A FLAT IRON- 163 

" Where the deuce are you going to make your fortune?" 

" Out in them furrin' countries, sir, as we read about. 
Jack Smith made his that way, and I thought I might get a 
lot of gold in Californy and take back and make my father 
a gentleman, like he did his'n." 

The passengers had gathered round to listen to the little 
stowaway's story, and, encouraged by the attention he had 
excited, he told them all. 

He had read in "The Boy Sailor " of a golden land to 
which the great ships sailed, and in the last week's number 
Jack Smith, the hero, had gone out there and picked up< 
enough gold to live happy ever after on, and he had thought 
if he could get there he would do the same. So he had 
hidden himself in the ship. 

The boy was Master Jemmy Grinham, and he had four- 
pence and a pawn-ticket in his pocket with which to start 
in the new world. 

No wonder Mrs. Grinham waited in vain for the return; 
of the missing heir. 

***** 

Five years have passed away since the good ship May- 
flower sailed for Australia. 

Mr. and Mrs. Grinham were quite gentlepeople now, and 
in their beautiful house in the suburbs received their 
neighbours hospitably, and were reckoned people worth 
cultivating. They gave good dinners and dances, and kept 
open house, and were always safe when subscriptions were 
wanted for local or general purposes. 

They had grieved long and earnestly for their lost son. 
The mystery surrounding his fate had never been pierced, 
and at last they had made up their minds that an acci- 
dent had happened to him, and that he would never be 

L 2 



1 64 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

heard of again. The mother felt her loss because she 
loved him dearly, and there was a void in her heart. The 
father grieved because now that he was wealthy he could 
afford the luxury of a son, and a son was something that a 
rich man ought to have if only to leave his money to when 
he died. 

Jemmy was not mentioned in their new circle of ac- 
quaintances. The past life of the Grinhams was a profound 
secret. They came away from their old home without 
leaving anyone the means of tracing them, and gave it out 
to the Lisson-grovers that they were going to Australia. If 
it had been known they had only been poor working people, 
suburban society might have withstood even the temptation 
of the dinners and the parties. 

One day a tall lad, bronzed with sun and sea, knocked 
at the door of the old house in Lisson-grove. He was a 
fine, strapping lad, well dressed and hearty, and no one 
would have recognised in him the white-faced, ragged little 
boy who sailed from the East India Docks five years ago, 

But Jemmy Grinham it was, and now he was back to give 
.his father and mother a glad surprise. He had been lucky. 
The captain had been very kind to him, and given him a 
help with a friend in Australia, and the friend had taken a 
fancy to him and found the lad useful. Jemmy had been 
grateful, and when the opportunity came had repaid his 
benefactor. A robbery was attempted at his employer's 
place, and the boy's courage and intrepidity had saved 
thousands of pounds' worth of property. 

And now he was back again home with the little fortune 
for his father and mother that he had dreamed about. He 
had £300 which his master had given him for catching the 
thieves and saving the property. He was to go to England, 



A FLAT IRON. 165 

find his poor parents, bring them out, and their fortune 
should be made too. He had not written home while he 
had been away. It had always been his scheme to surprise 
his parents when the good luck came. 

It was with a beating heart that he rapped at the door. 
Would his mother come herself ? His eyes filled with tears 
as he thought of the little cry of joy she would give. 

A strange woman answered him, and his voice trembled, 
as he said — 

" Is Mrs. Grinham in ? " 

" Nobody o' that name here." 

" I beg your pardon," stammered the lad, " I've beem 
away five years. Can you tell me where she's gone to ? " 

" Bill ! " shouted the woman 

Bill was up stairs evidently, for the voice came down in 
reply — 

"Hullo!— what is it?" 

" D'ye know where the Grinhams be gone to as lived 
here five year ago ? " 

" Yes," answered Bill ; " they went to Australy." 

Poor Jem turned quite white under his tan, and he 
staggered back from the step. 

He had come so many weary leagues to find them, and' 
they were in Australia all the time. 

He turned away to hide his tears, and, thanking the 
woman in a husky voice, walked down the old familiar 
street. 

It was hard, after being buoyed with hope so long, to 
have success dashed from him just as he thought he held it 
in his grasp. 

He walked away thinking of all that had happened since 
Lhe afternoon he went to pawn his mother's flat-iron, and 



1 66 THREE BRA SS DA LLS. 

ran away with the money. He carried the ticket with him 
still. 

He pulled out his purse and looked at the worn duplicate. 
It was the only memento he had of that eventful step in his 
career. 

He had intended to fling his notes down in his mother's 
lap with the ticket and say, " Mother — that's what your flat- 
iron fetched." 

And now — 

He put the ticket back sorrowfully, and went aimlessly 
on his way through the London streets. 

* * * * * 

There was a grand evening party at Mr. Jones's, the. 
stockbroker's, in Melina-terrace, Haverstock Hill. 

Mr. Jones lived at one end of Melina-terrace, and the 
Grinhams at the other, and as the families were friendly the 
Grinhams were invited. 

Mr. Jones was doing the thing in style, and an awning 
from the hall door to the front garden gate having well 
advertised the fact that a party was to be given, the usual 
crowd had assembled outside to witness the arrivals. 

A young man with a sunburnt face, strolling along, came 
up to the crowd, and, having nothing better to do, joined 
it and watched the fast-arriving guests. 

Presently he saw a lady and gentleman come along the 
terrace on foot, and pass into the house. 

He gave such a sharp, sudden cry that the crowd turned 
round to look at him. 

Before he could recover his composure the gentleman 
and lady had passed into the house, and the door was shut. 

He had recognised the lady's face, and in that sudden 
revelation every other incident of the scene was blotted 



A FLAT IRON. 167 



out. He saw no jewels, no grand house, no well-dressed 
lady — only a well-known face. 

Five years were rolled back suddenly, and all he thought 
of was a poor hard-working woman, who had sent her son 
to pawn a flat-iron. 

He dashed through the crowd, ran up the steps, and 
banged at the door. 

As it opened he flew past the astonished servant, and 
rushed into the brilliantly-lighted room. 

He looked for one face only, and saw it. His mother was 
sitting by the hostess, talking to her. 

Jemmy Grinham ran across the room, and in a moment 
had flung a packet in her lap. 

" Mother," he shouted, beside himself with excitement, 
" this is what they lent on your flat-iron ! " Then he held 
up the pawn-ticket, and, almost hysterical with joy, 
smothered her face with kisses. 

At the first sound of his voice Mrs. Grinham had almost 
swooned, but his hot kisses convinced her it was no ghost 
from the dead, but her dear boy, safe and sound, returned 
at last. 

The guests gazed in astonishment at the scene. The 
mother had risen and clasped her son in a passionate em- 
brace, and the notes and the pawn-ticket fell on the floor. 

Mr. Jones picked the latter up and read it. 

It was a ticket for a flat-iron dated five years back, and 
made out in the name of Sarah Grinham. 

***** 

The story of the rich Mrs. Grinham, her long-lost son, 
and her flat-iron, went the round of Haverstock Hill society, 
and was the staple subject of conversation for a month. 

But neither of the parties most interested cared much 



1 68 THREE BRASS BALLS. 



about that. Mr. and Mrs. Grinham were too rich to be cut 
and their parties too good to be refused, and the story was 
" really so very romantic, you know." 

When the excitement of the first meeting was over, and 
Mr. and Mrs. Grinham and Jemmy were beneath their own 
roof, there was a long tale to tell on both sides. 

If his parents were astonished to see him, Jemmy was no 
less amazed at the change of fortune which had overtaken them. 

"And to think," he said, "that all the time I was sailing 
across the sea to look for a fortune one had come to you 
ready made, at the very time I lay a ragged little stowaway 
in the Mayflower." 

Jemmy is not going back to Australia. There is no 
necessity now. In spite of that awkward revelation of his, 
he is a great favourite in the suburb, for he is handsome, 
and he will, of course, be rich. 

Mr. Jones still invites the Grinhams to visit him, for there 
is a grown-up Miss Jones, and Jemmy and she seem to suit 
each other very well. 

Sarah Grinham has a little box of treasures which she 
keeps in her own little boudoir. There is a curl cut from 
Jemmy's hair when he was a baby, her marriage certificate, 
one or two little remnants of the old life of poverty, and a 
photograph of herself and Mr. Grinham, taken for sixpence 
on Hampstead Heath, when they were not dressed quite so 
fashionably as they are now. She has lately added to that 
little store another memento of the old life. It is something- 
linked with a story of a lost son and the strange journey he 
made in search of fortune. It is something which will 
always remind her of the sad day he was lost and the happy 
night she saw him again after five long years. It is the 
pawnbroker's ticket for — a flat-iron. 



Pledge XIV 
A "SHAKESPEARE." 

In an untidy corner of a pawnbroker's widow, where 
mbrellas, meerschaum pipes, surgical instruments, cruet- 
tands, books, and old china, lie in unpicturesque confusion 
o tempt the buyer, there is also a beautifully-bound copy of 
Shakespeare's works. 

Adversity makes strange bedfellows, and it is adversity 
/hich has brought William Shakespeare to lie here cheek 
y jowl with a varied assortment of unredeemed pledges. 

The shopman has been reaching something from the 
window to show a customer, and in drawing it out his hand 
as caught the handsome volume and flung it open at the 
itle-page. There is an inscription written there which it 
> now open for the passer-by to read: "To William 
)urtnall. A prize for diligence and general good conduct, 
une, 18 — ." Then follows the name of the country school 
/here William Durtnall had been so diligent and so good. 

It is a sad satire upon such a character that the prize 
hould come to lie among the unredeemed pledges of a 
awnbroker's stock. What brought it from the country to 
he great city? How came the good and diligent William 
o use it as security for an advance, and why was it never 
edeemed ? 

Listen to the story of William Durtnall's life. 

***** 

It is William Durtnall's last night at home. 



170 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

He is about to leave the quiet village of Ottermouth, 
where his young life has been passed, and go up to London 
to make his fortune. 

William is just sixteen, a bright, rosy-cheeked, country 
lad, the sole joy and comfort of his widowed and invalid 
mother. Ever since Willie can remember they have lived 
in the modest little cottage where he sits to-night toyino 
with his simple supper — delighted to think that he is about 
to embark in life, grieved to think that he must part from 
her whom he loves and reverences, from whose side he has 
never yet been absent many hours. 

He knows that he shall miss her very much, and that 
where he is going there will be no one to watch over him 
and make his life pleasant as she has done ; he knows that 
the parting will almost break her heart, and that in the 
long, lonely evenings she will sit and weep as she looks 
upon his empty chair. 

But it is necessary that he should make a future for him- 
self, and the chance has come. His mother stands aside, 
and refuses to be a bar to her son's success ; he feels that 
in securing a position he will be benefiting her, and so it 
is finally arranged that he shall accept the situation offered 
him, and go to London. 

This splendid situation has not been lightly obtained. 
Willie had been the favourite pupil at the local school. He 
has been patted on the head by the rector, and held up as 
a bright example by all the local patrons of learning. 
Willie has fully deserved their favour. He has been the 
best boy at the school, has shown himself wonderfully quick 
at figures, and has gained the annual prize for diligence and 
<rood conduct. 

This prize was a beautifully-bound copy of Shakespeare's 



A "SHAKESPEARE." 171 

works, and when Willie, beaming with pleasure, brought it 
home to his mother, the foolish woman let two big tears of 
pride and joy fall right upon the fly-leaf where her son's 
name was honourably mentioned in the head master's very 
best and most flourishing handwriting. 

That was the termination of Willie's scholastic career. 
He went to business then, for his mother was very poor, 
having only a trifling allowance made to her for her life by 
her dead husband's employer, a local solicitor. 

Mr. Durtnall had been a solicitor's clerk, not very quick, 
but very honest and faithful. When he died, at the age of 
forty-five, his salary was £2 a week. He left his wife and 
child penniless, but in consideration of his long and faithful 
services his employer made an allowance to his widow of 
£1 a week as long as she lived. 

It is true that at that time she wasn't expected to live a 
fortnight, but of course that had nothing to do with Lawyer 
Jones's munificence finding its way into the local paper. 

Widow Durtnall got well unexpectedly, and Lawyer Jones 
perhaps regretted he had been in such a hurry to let his 
benevolence be publicly announced. Still, there it was, and 
he couldn't go back, so Mrs. Durtnall had his pound a week 
and lived on it. 

When Willie left school he got a place at the local draper's 
as a sort of errand boy and junior shopman combined. But 
the trade wasn't heavy, and the year being a bad one, 
Willie, after giving every satisfaction for six months, got a 
week's notice. 

Then it was that the brilliant opening presented itself. 
An influential resident, a retired draper from Exeter, who 
had taken great interest in Willie's scholastic career, offered 
to get him into the great London house of Solomon Smith 



1 7 2 THREE BRA SS BA LLS. 

and Co. Solomon Smith and Co. were world-famed 
wholesale drapers. Even Willie and his mother had heard 
of them. 

" Of course, you'll have to work hard at first there, my 
boy," said his patron, " and work your way up. But it's a 
splendid house. Why, there are men in the firm now 
getting their thousand a year who went in as lads at next to 
nothing." 

The more Willie heard about the great house of Solomon 
Smith the more it seemed to him the stepping-stone to 
fortune. Drapery house' — nonsense ! It was a cave of 
jewels to which with a magic "open sesame" he would 
obtain admission like a second Aladdin, and secure a fortune 
by just picking it up. 

And fancy, when he was having a thousand a year, what 
a beautiful home he would make for his mother ! She should 
always sit in the drawing-room with cherry ribbons to her 
caps, and be a real lady. And perhaps the partners would 
look round and spend the evening with them. He was sure 
Mr. Smith would like his mother, and if he once tasted her 
rhubarb jam — ah ! 

Talking over his brilliant prospects it suddenly occurred 
to Willie that perhaps a preliminary pot of the rhubarb jam 
might be diplomatically useful. Mrs. Durtnall had the same 
idea as her son, and so this evening, as he sits at supper for 
the last time at home, there lies up stairs in his box a pot of 
the famous home-made jam in dangerous proximity to the 
prize " Shakespeare." 

Ere mother and son sought their beds that night they 
knelt together in the little room, and with choked voices 
prayed together to the Throne of Grace — the mother that 
her son's future might be peaceful and prosperous, the 



A "SHAKESPEARE." i 73 

son that God would console the widow shorn of her only 
joy. 

And the next morning they parted at Exeter Station, he 
a rosy-cheeked, merry country lad, beaming with rude health 
and elated with hope ; she a frail woman, lonely and broken- 
hearted, and penetrated already by the fatal shaft of that 
disease which was soon to free Lawyer Jones from the 
penalty of his rash promise. 

* * * * * 

Messrs. Solomon Smith and Co. are world-famed as 
wholesale drapers. Their gigantic establishment occupies 
a whole block of buildings in a great City thoroughfare, and 
their employes number many hundreds. Their transactions 
are colossal, and their wealth is enormous. They bear a 
character which is irreproachable, and their benevolence is 
universally admitted. 

The senior partner is greatly revered for the active part 
he takes in all measures for the benefit of the heathen. 

Like all wholesale drapery houses, the system of business 
is of the strictest and most methodical kind. The huge 
army of employes is officered by martinets, and the heads of 
the firm invariably leave the details of such a gigantic con- 
cern to be arranged upon the most approved business 
principles. 

The partners in such a concern rarely interfere person- 
ally with the management of departments. It is to the 
counting-house that they confine their attentions, and many 
of them are ignorant of the gross cruelty which the working 
of the wholesale drapery system entails. 

A year has passed since Willie Durtnall came to take 
his place as a servant of the great firm. 

Let us see how he is getting on. We search for him in 



j 74 THREE BRASS BALLS. 



vain through room after room. We must go down very low 
to find him. 

We have come to a huge cavernous building which might 
appropriately be described as a cellar. 

It is mid-day, and the sun is shining brightly outside, 
but forty gas-jets are flaring, for here no light can pene- 
trate. 

We are confused at first by the glare of the light and the 
babel of tongues rattling off item after item. Seated at rows 
of desks are some thirty or forty youths, ranging in age 
from fourteen to eighteen. 

Willie Durtnall we remember a rosy-cheeked, stalwart 
lad. Surely he cannot be here. These young fellows are 
all pale and bent, and their cheeks are thin and hollow. 
There is no Willie Durtnall, no healthy, happy, country lad 
here. 

Stay, that tall, white-faced boy shading his eyes with his 
hands bears some resemblance to him. He looks up. 

It is he — but, O, what a change ! 

The lad is a wreck — his roses have gone, and his face is 
deadly pale. As he looks up we see that he winks and 
blinks like an owl, and presently he bursts out into a dis- 
tressing cough that tells tales about his lungs. 

Here comes a customer who has business in this room. 
He is Willie's old master from Ottermouth. He has asked 
for the lad, and Willie has been pointed out to him. 

The draper stares in astonishment. 

" You look ill, lad," he says kindly. 

" I have been," answers the boy feebly, "but I'm getting 
better." 

" What's been the matter ? " 

"Well, I got a bad cold, and I seemed to go wron^ all 



A "SHAKESPEARE." 



/:> 



r>f a sudden. I expect London didn't agree with me at 
first. I'm used to the fresh air, and this place — " 

The draper looks round and shrugs his shoulders. 

"Why, it's like the Black Hole in Calcutta," he says. 

" I don't know what that was like," answers the lad, 
under his breath, as though he were afraid to be heard, 
" but this place settles no end of fellows." 

" You aren't in it long, I suppose ? " 

"We are often in it from eight in the morning till eleven 
o'clock at night, with only half an hour for dinner and a 
quarter of an hour for tea." 

" Ah, but that isn't often ? " 

" It's six weeks at a stretch." 

" That's very dreadful." 

" But that's not the worst, sir. Look at these little lads 
at the next desk. They're apprentices, and just fresh from 
school. They worked at the desk till two o'clock this 
morning with the rest of us, and at six o'clock the watch- 
man came round and pulled us out of bed to begin again, 
for this is our busy season. 

Here the conversation is interrupted, and the lad has to 
go on with his work, figuring with lightning rapidity, and 
tilling in invoice after invoice so fast that they seemed to 
fly from under his hand as if thrown out by machinery. 

They work at high pressure in these great drapery 
houses, and they insist upon perfection. One mistake made 
by a lad of sixteen, working in a sea of figures fourteen and 
fifteen and sometimes twenty hours a day, is lightly 
punished, but the second means loss of promotion and often 
dismissal at a moment's notice. 

In the worst days of American slavery never was there 
such nigger-driving as that practised systematically by the 



£76 THREE BRASS BALLS 

wholesale drapery trade, and most cruelly practised towards 
those least able to bear its rigours — growing and delicate 

lads. 

H* *T* 5jC Sp !)C 

It is the day before the Christmas holidays, and the great 
firm of Solomon Smith and Co. is going to close for three 
days. 

Just before two o'clock, when the shutters are to go up, 
Willie Durtnall falls from his seat in a dead faint. 

He has been trembling and shivering all the morning; 
his eyes, weakened by the daily gas, are protected by 
spectacles, and to-day the figures have swum before him. 
He has been queer and out of sorts all the week. 

The lad who worked next him died a fortnight since in 
the house. He had been ill for a month, and the doctor 
said it was galloping consumption. He got delirious at last, 
and raved of his home and his mother ; and Willie, who 
had gone to see him after business hours up stairs in the 
great dormitory, had been shocked and unnerved. 

He was in a very weak state himself, and he feared that 

his sight was going, and then . Well, it meant ruin. 

It meant that he would be a helpless burden on his poor 
mother all his life. 

His last letter from her told him that she was ill, and 
pining to see her dear boy. How was he getting on ? Was 
he a favourite with the partners ? 

Poor mother! The boy had hesitated to dispel her 
illusion as his own had been dispelled. 

But her letter added a fresh terror to those which were 
already weighing him down. His health he knew was 
breaking down. 

He was going home at Christmas. He had saved his 



'SHA KESPEA RE. " i 71 



money for months to pay the fare, but the pleasure of the 
visit was marred by the fear he had that his mother would 
see how ill he was. 

He was, indeed, only a wreck. Everyone in his depart- 
ment saw that he was going the way so many a bright 
young lad had gone. All constitutions will not stand the 
long hours of fierce brain work in a vile atmosphere. The 
town lads get on pretty well. It is the country boys, 
accustomed to fresh air and exercise and regular meals, who 
break most rapidly, and leave or die. 

Willie would not leave. He was not fit to take another 
situation even could he have got one. But when he fainted 
the manager was in the room. He had long noticed the 
lad's condition, and he really felt sorry for him. It was 
his duty, if he saw a lad was likely to fall ill and be unable 
to work, to dismiss him at once. 

Besides, he felt sure that Willie was not only going to be 
ill, but that his eyesight was failing. 

When the lad had recovered he told him to go to the 
counting-house. 

There he received a week's salary, with an intimation 
that his services would not be required any more. This 
was exceptional generosity. The firm claims the right to 
dismiss at a minute's notice without any salary at all. 

There is nothing cruel or inhuman in this procedure — it is 
merely the wholesale drapery system. Flesh and blood is 
only a marketable commodity — if you allow nonsensical 
ideas about humanity, and all that sort of thing, to get into 
the drapery system, you would upset it, and why upset a 
system which works so admirably — for the employers. 

Willie's dismissal was a terrible blow. Packing his little 
box, putting his prize for diligence and good conduct care- 

M 



.78 THREE BRASS BALLS. 



fully in with his clothes, he bade his comrades a sorrowful 
good-bye and reeled out of the place. 

There was one of the young men who lived out of doors 
who had taken a fancy to Willie and done him many little 
kindnesses. He saw the lad's condition, and knew that he 
was totally unfit to travel. He insisted upon his coming 
home and spending Christmas with him. " You'll have 
a longer holiday than you thought, my boy," he said 
kindly. 

" You'll be better for a few days' rest, and then you can 
go down home. 

Willie Durtnall was forced to yield to his friend's sugges- 
tion. He felt so ill and weak that he could hardly stand. 
* * * * H« 

For four weeks the cast-off clerk of Solomon Smith and 
Co. lay between life and death at the house of the friend who 
had taken him in. 

They wrote his mother a few days after Christmas that 
her son was lying at death's door, delirious and calling for 
her, and suggested that she should come. 

The letter was opened and answered by Lawyer Jones, 
who replied that Mrs. Durtnall could not come to London, 
she having set out on a very much longer journey rather 
suddenly on the previous day. 

Mrs. Durtnall was dead. 

Lawyer Jones took possession of her furniture and her 
few effects, and they were sold to defray the expenses of 
her funeral and to settle some small bills unpaid at the time 
of her death. 

They broke the news gently to the poor lad when with 
returning consciousness he asked for news of his mother 
and when Willie Durtnall lifted his weak limbs from the bed 



A "SHAKESPEARE." 170 

of sickness he was shattered in health, penniless, friendless, 
and alone. 

His little stock of money had been exhausted for medical 
attendance, for his friend had a large heart but a small 
purse, and in justice to his own family he could not pay the 
expenses of a comparative stranger. 

When Willie could walk he insisted upon being a burden 
to his kind friend no longer. He took his small box, and 
hired a top attic in a little side street until such time as he 
could get into collar again. 

With the five shillings his friend insisted upon making 
him keep he managed for a few days. He wandered from 
office to office seeking work, but everywhere his appear- 
ance was against him. He was a youth risen from the 
grave, and he looked it. 

When his last shilling was gone he pawned his clothes, 
and when he had only the clothes he stood upright in he 
pawned his little treasures. Then it was that the " good 
and diligent boy," with an aching heart, took the reward of 
his diligence under his arm and pawned it for a meal and a 
lodging. 

It was with a feeling of shame and humiliation that he 
put it down upon the counter, and he cast his eyes on the 
ground as the pawnbroker's assistant opened it at the fly- 
leaf. 

He remembered how two years ago he had stood a bright, 
rosy-cheeked boy, glowing with health, to receive this book 
from the hands of his master amid the plaudits of his com- 
panions. 

He remembered how he had rushed home with it to his 
mother, and how she had prophesied it was his first step 

upon the path to fame and fortune. 

M 2 



180 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

He remembered, too, how carefully it had been put in his 
box when he came up to the great city to take his place in 
the warehouse of Messrs. Solomon Smith and Co., and how 
he had made sure that, once in the employ of that famous 
firm, he had only to be good and diligent and he would 
win a far more substantial prize than a volume of "Shake- 
speare." 

He took what the shopman offered him on his prize, and, 
hungry as he was, he hardly liked to spend it. It seemed 
to him that the few shillings were the price of his past and 
of his future — that he had parted with the last tie that bound 
him to hope. 

Still he kept plodding the weary round of the City offices 
and living as best he could, till at last he got too shabby to 
apply for a clerk's berth. 

When he was out at heel and ragged he asked for a 
porter's place, and they looked at his white face and thin, 
bent body, and laughed. 

After a time he sank lower and lower, and tramped the 
streets all night unable to afford a lodging. He picked up 
what he could, and got odd jobs in the streets. 

One day, inspired with a sudden fury at the cruelty of his 
fate, he felt a hideous temptation to rebel against society in 
revenge— to become a thief if he saw the chance. 

A lady passed him one day when hunger was gnawing his 
vitals and the cold was cutting him through. 

Her purse was in one of those back pockets specially 
designed to instil into the uncultured mind the maxim that 
God helps those who help themselves. 

He could have seized it unseen. There it lay, so close to 
his hand, as she stopped to look into a shop window, that 
his fingers had but to close and it was his. 



A "SHAKESPEARE." 181 

With a violent effort he tore himself away, and rushed 
along the street out of the way of the terrible temptation. 
And that night he reaped the reward of his honesty by 
failing to earn a night's shelter, and having to take to the 
casual ward at last. 

After that no one who knew him ever saw him again. 

What became of him ? Ah, Heaven knows. 

What does become of the poor outcasts who are dragged 
down by cruel circumstances from respectability to misery 
and ruin? 

They are drawn into some mysterious vortex, and whirled 
away to be seen no more. 

Whether he died or lived, whether at last he found a 
haven or drifted into the black ocean of crime, I cannot say. 
He never redeemed his " Shakespeare," for it lies even now 
as I write in the pawnbroker's window, its open page telling 
all who pass by that once the poor wretch who pawned it 
was "good and diligent." 

But it is a dumb witness to no more. It does not tell the 
curious gazer that this lad reaped the reward of his diligence 
by getting promoted to the famous house of Solomon Smith 
and Co., wholesale drapers, and there his health was ruined 
and his whole life marred, which result being brought about, 
he was flung away as you fling away an orange from which 
you have squeezed the juice. 

***** 

I have told here the simple story of a young lad's life. 
The incidents happen every day. There are twenty 
wholesale houses where the system here described prevails. 
The heads of the firm are in many instances, I believe, 
ignorant of the terrible amount of overwork and overstrain 
to which their younger employes are subjected. Many of 



i82 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

these " slave-owners " are most charitable men, and Solomon 
Smith himself is chairman of the Society for Promoting 
Early Closing among the Hottentots. We have an Act 
which protects the factory workers, and we have vigorously 
attacked the petty masters of " sweating shops." But there 
flourish in our midst colossal concerns, owned by merchant 
princes, which employ boy labour under the most cruel 
circumstances. 

In some of these houses the lads have barely time to 
swallow their meals, they sleep twenty in a small room, and 
have often to work in an underground cellar from half-past 
eight in the morning till past eleven at night, sometimes 
from six in the morning till two the next morning, for days 
in succession. And during the "busy times" not one penny 
extra is allowed in the shape of salary to these white 
niggers. 

If the story of poor Willie DurtnalPs famous prize shall 
arouse the attention of one earnest philanthropist to this 
crying evil I shall not have written it in vain. I plead on 
behalf of thousands of young lads whose lives are being 
ruined by this cruel system. In these days of widespread 
humanity and benevolent legislation the law must no longer 
hesitate to bring under its control the great white slave 
shops of the City. 



Pledge XV 
A CORAL AND BELLS. 

" I SAY, that young 'un's clever." 
" Ain't she ? Don't you know who she is ? " 
" No. She's down on the bills as ' Little Daisy.' " 
"Yes ; but she's Daisy Vavasour's little girl." 
"Goon!" 

" Honour ! I saw Gerty Holmes bring her to rehearsal." 
"Well, I am glad. If she turns out right it'll be a fine 
thing for Gerty. She deserves it, too, poor girl, I'm blest 
if she doesn't." 

The above conversation took place at the wings of the 
Royal Frivolity Theatre one bleak March afternoon during 
the rehearsal of the new burlesque which was to set the 
Thames on fire. The speakers were two young ladies of 
the chorus, but they wore elegant sealskin mantles, and 
were attired in the height of fashion. 

I need go into no details if I explain that the new bur- 
lesque at the Frivolity was one of those pieces specially 
arranged as a vehicle for the lavish display of female charms? 
and that, talent being a minor consideration in certain roles, 
the daughters of Bohemia, who were on the best of terms 
with the sons of Belgravia, found on the boards amusement 
for the passing hour, and that professional status which 
enables a young lady in trouble with her landlady or her 
coachman to describe herself before a legal tribunal as " an 
actress." 



1 84 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

The two young ladies were conversing about a little girl 
of five, who was cast for a part in this burlesque. 

She was a sweet little thing, with large, saucy blue eyes, 
a laughing mouth, and a quaint delivery that made every 
word she uttered of value. 

When she spoke her first lines clearly and distinctly, and 
brought her little foot down with a stamp, in obedience to 
the author's direction, there was quite a murmur among the 
company, and people began to ask who she was. 

And when the whisper ran round that this infant phe- 
nomenon was Daisy Vavasour's little girl, and that Gerty 
Holmes had taught her to act and brought her to the 
theatre, there was quite a rush to look at the child. She 
was patted on the head by the gentlemen, kissed by the 
ladies, complimented by the stage manager, and blessed by 
everybody but the author, who foresaw another request to 
alter his burlesque for the twenty-fifth time in order on this 
occasion to strengthen the part of Little Daisy. 

That the reader may fully understand the intense in- 
terest excited by this baby actress, we must go back three 
years. 

***** 

Daisy Vavasour and Gerty Holmes were two of the 
merriest, flightiest girls of the Royal Frivolity company. 

Daisy was five-and-twenty and Gerty was two years her 
junior, and they were both idolised by the Crutch and 
Toothpick Brigade, for, in the expressive language of the 
fraternity, both the girls were " good for a lark." No 
Richmond dinner, no supper party, in a certain set, was 
complete without Gerty and Daisy. 

They were only "show girls" — that is, they came on 
with the bevy of fair damsels, and their salaries were some- 



A CORAL AND BELLS. 185 



where about two guineas a week, but outside the theatre 
their position was aristocratic. Daisy had charming apart- 
ments at Pimlico, and Gerty's rooms in Brunswick-cottages, 
St. John's Wood, were furnished in the most elegant and 
recherche style. 

To save themselves the trouble of worrying their pretty 
little heads with financial matters, they allowed a gentle- 
man to be their purse-bearer, and to settle their worldly 
affairs for them. 

Occasionally there was a change of ministry, and the 
Financial Secretary to the Home Department would resign, 
to be succeeded by another. 

Three years ago, when Gerty and Daisy were in the 
height of their prosperity, and the world of fashion was at 
their feet, Daisy's Chancellor of the Exchequer was a 
young baronet of sporting proclivities, and Gerty was at 
the moment without one at all, having been attacked by one 
of those affaires de casur which sometimes will happen in 
the best-regulated female breast. Gerty had fallen over 
head and ears in love with the gentleman who played the 
lovers at the Frivolity. She was going to give up Rich- 
mond dinners and West-end suppers, and wear black, and 
go to church, and by-and-by, perhaps, Augustus would 
marry her, and then they would settle down in a cottage, 
have babies, buy a perambulator, and propitiate Mrs. 
Grundy in every possible way. 

This was Gerty's dream, but when she told it to Daisy in 
the crowded dressing-room Daisy shrieked with laughter, 
and, kicking up her heels, indulged in a wild war dance, 
much to the disgust of the other ladies, who were "joggled," 
and dabbed the rouge on the ends of their noses instead of 
on to their cheeks. 



i86 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

But afterwards, as they went up stairs on to the stage 
dressed, or rather undressed, for their parts, Daisy said 
quietly — 

" Gerty, do you think you should like children r " 

" Oh yes," said Gerty ; " I know I should." 

"Come over to my place to-morrow; you've never been. 
Come and see mv little one. I've had it home." 

Gerty was delighted, and promised that she would. She 
had often heard of Daisy Vavasour's two-year-old little girl 
who was out at nurse, but had never seen it. 

The next day Gerty went over to her friend at Pimlico, 
and she enjoyed herself more than she had for many a long 
day 

The two girls forgot the footlights, the bold life of bare 
limbs and painted faces, and all the heartless frivolity of the 
fast circle they moved in. 

They were two happy girls, with a baby between them. 
They sat all day in Daisy's pretty drawing-room, and talked 
over baby's future, and then they had a game of romps with 
her, and then they went out to the shop and bought things 
for baby, and came back again to a nice quiet tea-dinner, 
and baby was put upon a high chair and nearly choked 
between them. 

Before they went to the theatre Daisy showed her visitor 
a beautiful coral and silver bells, which she whispered mys- 
teriously was the gift of " baby's father." 

Gerty wasn't inquisitive, and didn't ask too much, but 
Daisy told her that " he " wasn't friends with her now, and 
that she hadn't seen him for a longtime. We all have our 
family secrets, and Daisy Vavasour had hers. 

The friendship between the girls ripened over baby. 
Baby was a link between them, and many and many a day 



A CORAL AND BELLS. 187 

would Gerty Holmes go over to Daisy's house to have a 
quiet hour with her and the little one. 

I think they were both better for the domestic in- 
terest imported into their Bohemian lives ; and though 
they laughed as loudly still, and were as pert and bold as 
ever, the womanly instinct aroused had not been without its 
good effect. 

One day Daisy didn't come to the theatre, sending a note 
to say she was ill. The next day Gerty went round and 
found her in bed. The doctor was there when she called, 
and presently he explained to her why she had better not 
see the patient. 

The explanation was clear. Daisy Vavasour's symptoms 
were those of small-pox. 

Gerty would not listen to the doctor. Somebody would 
have to nurse her friend ; it shouldn't be a stranger to her 
poor girl. 

The doctor told Gerty if she insisted she would have to 
isolate herself — she certainly couldn't go in and out of the 
house 

Gerty, in her hearty, impulsive way, decided at once. 
She sent word to the theatre that she couldn't come any 
more, and then she sat down to nurse her friend. 

The child was to be kept down stairs out of the way 
by the landlady, and visitors were to be forbidden the 

house. 

Over Gerty's moral character angels and the respectable 
classes would weep ; as to reputation she hadn't a rag, 
except the reputation of being as fast a little lady as the 
Frivolity could boast ; but she sat down by the bedside of 
her friend to undertake a task and run a risk from which 
the loftiest virtue might well have shrunk with horror. 



1 88 THREE BRASS BALLS. 



For a fortnight she never left her friend. There were 
gay parties at Richmond and glorious supper parties in 
town ; there was everything to entice the butterfly whose 
life is made up of sunshine and gay flowers, but none of 
these tempted Gerty. She nursed her sick friend with 
untiring devotion, giving up all for the troubles and cares 
of a lonely sick room. 

The case was a bad one. Towards the end Daisy grew 
delirious, and raved of the old days. She talked of her 
home in the country, where her old father lived still — an 
honest yokel, who had cursed the name of London, that had 
robbed him of his pretty child. 

The old days of innocence came back, mixed with the 
unholy revels of the girl's later life. Now she babbled of 
hay-fields and sweet flowers, and now of the wild life behind 
the lights. 

She sang snatches from the songs in the burlesques ; and 
the names of the men who had paid court to her came now 
and then to her fevered lips. 

And amid it all, mixed up with every phase of her life, 
as it were, was the little child — her little Daisy. 

Daisy was with her in the green fields ; Daisy was with 
her as she tried on the amazonian armour in the " Kingdom 
of Delight" ; Daisy was on her knee as the Baronet clasped 
a diamond necklace round her throat. 

Just before the end came consciousness returned, and 
Daisy Vavasour, of the Frivolity Theatre, thin and hollow- 
cheeked, and dying, clasped the hand of the little chorus 
girl who had been her friend when all others flew from her, 
and bade God bless her for all she had done. 

Her last request to Gerty was about the child. 

" Promise me, Gerty, if I die, you will be a mother to my 



A CORAL AND BELLS. 189 

poor little one. Oh, Gerty, if I had my time over again I 
would be so different." 

Gerty promised to take little Daisy, and that while she 
lived she should never come to any harm. Then, her voice 
choked with sobs, and the tears raining down on the still 
white face of the dying woman, she bent over her and 
kissed her. 

And that kiss was the last thing on earth that Daisy 
ever knew That night the curtain rang down upon her 
life's short burlesque, the paint and the powder were 
washed from her face, the gay trappings of this mimic 
scene were stripped from her limbs, and she went home. 

Gerty Holmes paid a terrible price for that kiss. She 
sickened, and was taken with the disease herself, and came 
out again into the world with a face seamed almost beyond 
recognition, and a baby to keep — her dear friend's little 
Daisy. 

Poor Gerty was heavily handicapped. They didn't want 
her any more for the beauty show at the Frivolity. No 
amount of powder would cover those awful marks, and 
presents were hardly likely to rain upon her now from the 
Crutch and Toothpick Brigade. 

Augustus, it is needless to say, took care at once to 
convince her that all hopes in that quarter were at an end. 
" Poor little devil ! " he said to the gentleman who dressed 
in the same room with him, " she was spoony on me once; 
but, dem it all, you know, it won't do, will it?" 

His friend thought not, especially now no young gentleman 
who played the lovers was eminent in his profession unless 
he had at least three ladies of title leaving bouquets at the 
stage door for him nightly. 

So Gerty dropped quite out of her old set, gave up her 



ic/j THREE BRASS BALLS. 



handsome rooms and the old life, and settled down with the 
remains of her prosperity to hide her poor scarred face, work 
her little fingers to the bone, and be a mother to her dead 
friend's little child. 

It was a hard struggle, for Gerty had lived a life of 
sunshine too long to be ready for the storm. 

She tried lots of things, and failed in all. She was beaten 
everywhere by women who had been brought up to be 
useful. 

It was to make up the rent after a very bad time that 
Daisy's coral and bells went over to the poor man's friend. 

Gerty took it over herself, and it was lucky she did. It 
was the pawnbroker himself who lent her the sovereign she 
asked, and he questioned her. 

Where did she get it ? Was it hers ? How long had she 
had it ? 

Gerty wondered at his curiosity, but the pawnbroker 
explained. It was of him that it had been bought some 
years ago, and the gentleman who bought it was very well 
known to him. 

" It was Sir ," said the pawnbroker, " and I noticed 

the circumstance because it was a theatrical young lady who 
was with him, I was told, and I wondered what a young 
swell and a ballet girl wanted with a coral and bells." 

To the mind unacquainted with the nice distinctions of 
theatrical rank, all young ladies on the stage who are not 
actresses are ballet girls. 

Gerty knew in a minute who the young lady referred to 
was, and as she left the shop with the money she felt that 
she had discovered the secret which Daisy had never told 
her. 

That night, nerved by the prospect of approaching want — 



A CORAL AND BELLS. iqi 



want which she dreaded not for herself, but for the little one 
who was all in the world to her now — Gerty sat down and 
scrawled a note in her best hand to the Baronet. 

It was an awkward, illiterate note, but inoffensively 
worded, and it told its story. 

It was three days before she could find out the address. 
When she got it, she posted her letter, and waited. 

She waited a week, and a very anxious week it was. 

The little work Gerty had been able to get was done, and 
the money spent, and she could get no more. 

One evening when she was wondering what she could sell 
next, she sat with Daisy in her arms in the little top room 
where they lived. 

On the wall was a piece of cracked looking-glass, and as 
Gerty rocked the little one to sleep on her knee her eyes 
were fixed intently on the face the glass reflected. 

It was in the twilight, and all was quiet and still. Gerty's 
thoughts wandered far away She remembered the old 
days when her face was her fortune, when the curled 
darlings of Belgravia were at her feet, when the best of 
everything was at her command, and Fortunatus flung his 
purse into her lap. 

All the evil of those old days rose up before her now — 
all the waste of her bright youth and the beauty God had 
given her. But for the child she would be glad if it was 
all over, now that there was no temptation to go the devil's 
pace, and use life up so fiercely 

She looked at her face, and wondered how she should 
have fa.ed had God spared her beauty — whether for the 
child's sake she would have lived a better life. 

Lost in her reverie, she did not hear a knock at the door. 

The person knocking receiving no answer opened the 



.92 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

door and entered, and Gerty turned round to find herself in 
the presence of a tall, handsome gentleman of about five- 
and-thirty 

" I beg your pardon," said the stranger, stroking his 
moustache, and looking rather sheepishly at the child in 
Gerty's arms; "but are you Miss Holmes?" 

" Yes," said Gerty, astonished. 

" Haw ! You — ahaw — wrote me a letter ? " 

Gerty knew who her visitor was now. 

"I thought I'd come myself," said the Baronet, "it's such 
adoosid rum affair. Poor Daisy; she wasn't a bad sort!" 

The Baronet flicked his boots with his cane, and waited 
for Gerty to say something. He felt ill at ease. The little 
one disconcerted him dreadfully. 

Gerty told her story shortly and simply — how her dead 
friend had left the child in her charge, and how she had 
found out that once the Baronet had been good to her — and 
to the child. 

Gerty was too shrewd a little woman of the world to 
speak more plainly. She put the whole case as a question 
of friendship and generosity. 

The Baronet heard her story, twirled his moustache, said 
" By Jove ! " and looked everywhere but at the little one. 

Perhaps he was afraid he might grow fond of it. Perhaps 
he had a wild idea that it might wake up and run at him, 
calling out " Daddy," and then, by Jove ! you know, it would 
have been doosid unpleasant. 

He had liked Daisy very well when he was Chancellor of 
the Exchequer, and he had been good to the child. When 
the inevitable coldness and quarrel came and another 
Chancellor reigned in his stead, he had given Daisy a cheque 
for three figures to buy the baby something, and had sought 



A CORAL AND BELLS. 193 

fresh fields and pastures new for the sowing of his wild 
oats. 

But now he heard Daisy was dead and the little one was 
being kept by a brave girl who was starving herself for its 
sake, he felt touched. 

"Poor little devil!" he said to himself; "dash me, if I 
don't behave handsomely to it ! " Then turning to Gerty, 
he blurted out — 

" I'm glad you sent for me, Miss Holmes, though it's a 
doosid rum affair. I liked Daisy Vavasour, for she was a 
real good sort, and always ran straight. Look here, now. 
I'm doosid hard up, for I've been hit over the Guineas, but 
here's a pony for the young 'un, and directly I get a bit 
straight I'll send you some more. It shall never want a 
friend while I've a shot in the locker." 

Gerty took the notes, and felt that she had at last found 
a protector for poor Daisy's little one, and that, though she 
mio-ht have to struggle still, the child would never want. 

The Baronet went down stairs and out of the door, and 
beamed at himself all the way up the dirty little street. He 
had led the idle, thoughtless life of his class, and now he felt 
just as if he had been to church, and come out quite a pattern 
to the saints. 

He kept his word for six months, and when he backed a 
horse he always put on " an extra fiver for the young 'un." 

He sent the money in his easy-going, slapdash way, 
without the slightest inquiry into Gerty Holmes's character ; 
but she made a good use of it, and when the Baronet broke 
his neck riding his own horse at an Irish stetplechase a few 
months later Gerty had a nice little sum put by for Daisy's 

baby a sum which she refused to benefit by in any way 

herself. 



194 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

It was Gerty who discovered the little one's aptitude for 
mimicry, and taught her to act at first for amusement, but 
afterwards, when the undoubted talent was so plainly 
shown, as a business speculation. 

No wonder at the Royal Frivolity, the scene of Daisy 
Vavasour's short life can-can, the performance of Gerty 
Holmes's protegee excited the attention and sympathy of 
the company. 

It was only lately that the true story of the little chorus 
girl's heroic self-sacrifice had become known, and when she 
came to fetch little Daisy after rehearsal, and was recognised 
by her poor seamed face, many were the hands stretched out 
to grasp hers, and to tell her that now the little one would 
repay her for all her love and self-denial. 

The coral and bells was long ago redeemed, and Gerty 
keeps it carefully. She will give it to Daisy some day when 
the child is old enough to understand its story and to know 
that it is a memento of her strange parentage — of the 
sporting baronet who broke his neck and of pretty Daisy 
Vavasour of the Royal Frivolity Theatre. 



Pledge XVI. 
A MUSICAL BOX. 

FOR three days in succession the same advertisement 
appeared in a halfpenny evening paper : — 

A "WIDOW lady in difficulties wishes to dispose of the duplicates of 
several articles of jewellery and a musical box. Apply to E. E. D. 

Young Mr. Simpkins, of the firm of Simpkins and Co., 
solicitors, Lincoln's Inn, read the announcement each 
evening, and on the third one of those mysterious impulses 
which move us at times, and for which we are quite unable 
to account, moved him to write to R. E. D. for particulars. 

The particulars came by return of post. The jewellery 
consisted of an emerald ring, a gold locket, and a gold watch, 
and the musical box was a valuable one, and played twelve 
tunes. If Mr. Simpkins wished for an interview, R. E. D. 
would be at home that day from five till seven, and would 
be happy to see him. 

" I believe these advertisements are swindles," said 
Charley Simpkins to himself; "but I'll just follow this 
affair out and see." 

That afternoon, when he had finished work at the office, 
he took a hansom and went to the address given. 

He found R. E. D. a melancholy-looking widow of five- 
and-thirty, a lady in her manners, evidently perfectly honest, 
very poor, and one who had had a great deal of trouble. 

The upshot of the interview was that the young solicitor 
bought the duplicates of the property which had been in 

N 2 



1 96 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

pawn for very nearly a twelvemonth for a small sum, and left 
perfectly satisfied that he had been a party to a thoroughly 
legitimate transaction. 

The widow lady, Mrs. Dashwood, explained to him that 
her husband, lately dead, had left her in very poor circum- 
stances ; that after his death she had found these tickets in a 
drawer; and that not having the means of redeeming them, 
she had advertised them for sale. She had fancied she 
might get a larger sum for them than Mr. Simpkins had 
offered, but not being a woman of business she had for- 
gotten that of course the twelvemonth's interest on them 
considerably reduced their value. 

The next day Mr. Simpkins redeemed his property. He 
found the jewellery to be fairly good, of the ordinary 
pattern, and not a particularly great bargain, but the 
musical box was a capital one, and he was delighted with it. 

Of course, he wound it up and tried it at once directly he 
got it home. 

It played "Home, sweet Home" first, then "Annie 
Laurie," and then Mr. Simpkins's smile of satisfaction faded 
from his face, and an indescribable look ol doubtand astonish- 
ment took its place. 

Then the musical box played " The Last Rose of 
Summer," and the look deepened into one of uneasiness. 

Before the tune was finished, young Mr. Simpkins 
exclaimed aloud, " The next tune will be, ' I'm leaving thee 
in sorrow, Annie.' " 

"The Last Rose" was finished, and Mr Simpkins, with 
an air of earnest attention, bent eagerly over the box. He 
could hear his own heart beat as the preliminary notes of 
the next tune were gurgled out. 

It was " I'm leaving thee in sorrow, Annie," sure enough ! 



A MUSICAL BOX. 197 



And the next will be, "Pretty Jemima, don't say no," 
shouted young Mr. Simpkins, rushing to the box and 
eagerly scanning the lid for the list of tunes printed in- 
side it. 

Mr. Simpkins was right. He shut the box with a bang, 
dropped into his easy-chair, thrust his hands deeply into his 
trousers pockets, and exclaimed, " Well, I'm dashed if this 
isn't a rum go ! " 

It was indeed a "rum go." To understand how " rum" 
and why young Mr. Simpkins was so visibly affected, it is 
necessary to roll back the flight of time the short space of 
one year. 

About twelve months before young Mr. Simpkins was 
attracted by R. E. D.'s advertisement he was passing 
through a quiet square in the north-west of London shortly 
after midnight. 

He had been to the theatre, and had started to come 
home in a hansom cab ; but it was November, and about 
the Novemberest fog within the memory of living man had 
settled down upon the metropolis ; and after driving round 
this square five times, and failing to find an outlet, the cab- 
man had suggested that his fare would get home quicker 
if he got out and walked. 

In this opinion the fare coincided, and this was the 
reason that at a quarter after midnight he was holding on to 
the railings of Blank-square, and wondering whether he had 
better stay where he was till the morning, or rush into the 
unknown dangers of the space beyond. It was while he 
was turning the position over in his mind, and striking 
vesuvian after vesuvian in the vain hope that by their light 
he mio-ht discover some point to which he could steer, that 
strance music stole across the air. 



198 THREE BRASS BALLS. 



He knew he was in a square because of the railings ; he 
knew there were houses all round as a matter of course ; 
but he could see no lights in the windows, nor could he 
distinguish the faintest outline of architecture. The fog 
was too thick for that. 

It was evidently from one of the houses that the music 
proceeded. 

It was very faint and light, and he guessed it was a 
musical box. He could catch the sound distinctly, for all 
traffic was stopped, and there was nothing to disturb the 
dense stillness. 

First the oox played "Home, sweet Home," then "Annie 
Laurie," then " The Last Rose of Summer/' then " I'm 
leaving thee in sorrow, Annie," and then " Pretty Jemima, 
don't say no." And it was just at the end of the fifth tune 
that the belated wayfarer heard a sharp shriek that curdled 
his blood. 

It was the shriek of a woman, and it seemed to come 
from the same direction as the musical box. Then all was 
still, and Mr. Simpkins, terrified at the idea that perhaps 
evildoers were abroad and no policeman could be called, 
listened eagerly for a repetition of the noise. 

It never came, but presently he heard the sound ol 
a front door pulled to sharply, and then his ears told 
him that someone was hurrying away on the pavement 
opposite. 

He would have made an excursion across the road to see 
if he could discover anything, but he dared not leave go the 
railings. By the time he had wondered three or four 
times what he ought to do the square was as still as death 
again. 

He had an attack of the horrors then. He didn't like bein" 



A MUSICAL BOX. 199 



in a lonely place where shrieks had been heard. He had 
a gold watch on and a diamond pin, and he felt that if any 
midnight prowler came along the fog would offer him a fine 
chance to knock him down and get clear away with what- 
ever he liked to help himself to. 

Arguing in this way Mr. Simpkins was nerved with the 
courage of despair, and made a desperate effort to go on. 

After floundering about for nearly three-quarters of an 
hour, he ultimately found himself in Oxford-street, although 
he had fancied he was close to the Hampstead-road. 

He srot as far as the Horseshoe in Tottenham Court-road 
in safety, and then, as his residence was at Haverstock 
Hill, he managed, by following his nose, keeping in a 
straight line, and appealing occasionally to much-enshrouded 
forms that sometimes were policemen and sometimes pillar- 
boxes, at last to reach Laburnum Villa. 

He was so delighted to be safe at home that he turned into 
bed and forgot all about his adventure in the square, and 
dreamt the dream of the just. 

And the next morning at breakfast he read in the 
Standard that a fearful murder had been committed in 
Blank-square ; that a young woman's throat had been 
cut by some person unknown, and that the deed was 
probably committed between the hour of midnight and 
1 a.m. 

All the particulars known were given in a second edition, 
which came out at ten o'clock. 

Mrs. Eva Littleton lodged at 9, Blank-square, having the 
drawing-room floor. She was the only lodger. The land- 
lord of the house and his wife had been visiting a friend at 
Norwood, and had been unable to get home on account ot 
the train service being suspended by the fog. When they 



200 THREE BRASS BALLS. 



returned in the morning, and let themselves in with the 
latchkey, the first discovery they made was their lady 
lodger dead on the floor of her room. The motive might 
have been robbery or not. The rings the deceased usually 
wore were gone, and so were her watch and locket. All 
the reporter had been able to ascertain about Mrs. 
Littleton was that her husband had never been seen, that 
a dark gentleman sometimes came to tea, and that the land- 
lady didn't know anything of her for or against, except 
that she paid her rent regularly, and lived respectably so 
far as she knew, and that sometimes she had letters from 
abroad. 

At the inquest Mr. Simpkins volunteered his evidence, but 
no clue was found to the perpetrator of the deed, and the 
young solicitor had almost forgotten the strange incident in 
his career when his newly-purchased musical box brought it 
all vividly back to his memory again. 

He sat down that evening in his easy-chair at home ; and 
with the musical box on the table playing its twelve tunes 
to him, he thought out what he should do to try and get to 
the other end of the chain of evidence of which he now held 
the first link. 

He was going to be an amateur detective. He had made 
up his mind so far as this, that he would try, alone and 
unaided, to fathom the mystery of the long-forgotten murder 
in Blank-square. 

R. E. D. had told him that the ticket of the musical box 
had been found among her husband's papers after his 
death. Who was he, and how came he to be pawning the 
property which was stolen from Mrs. Littleton on the ni°mt 
of the crime ? That was the first thing to ascertain. 

The following day he went over to R. E. D.'s residence, 



A MUSICAL BOX. 201 



She had paid her bill that morning and gone away. 

" Had she left any address ? " 

" No, she hadn't." 

That was the gist of the conversation between Mr. 
Simpkins and the servant on the doorstep, and the young 
solicitor failed in all his subsequent efforts to find out R. E. D. 

He was sure it was the identical musical box of the 
murdered woman, because he remembered on the trial it had 
come out that some of her jewellery was missing too, and 
here was the jewellery and the musical box, all pawned pre- 
sumably by the same person. 

He fancied he ought to communicate with the police, but 
he wanted, if he could, to have the merit of discovering the 
mystery himself. 

If the culprit was R. E. D.'s husband, he was dead, and 
couldn't be hanged, of course ; but still it would be some 
satisfaction to trace the crime home to him. 

He determined to keep the matter to himself for a while, 
and see what he could find out. 

***** 

One evening Mr. Simpkins sat at his open window enjoy- 
ing the air. His musical box was on the table by him, and 
being wound up it was playing its tunes. 

Mr. Simpkins was gazing at nothing in particular and 
everything in general, when suddenly his attention was 
attracted by a man on the opposite side of the road. 

This man had stopped suddenly, and was listening in- 
tently to the music. 

As the tunes succeeded each other he seemed to be a 
prey to some violent emotion ; then, catching the earnest 
look of Mr. Simpkins, he pulled his hat over his eyes and 
strolled away. 



202 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

The idea flashed across Mr. Simpkins's mind in an instant 
that this was the missing murderer. 

The more he thought of it the more he felt convinced 
that chance and the musical box had put him on the scent. 

He rushed into the hall, put on his hat and hurried off 
after the stranger, but he had disappeared. He went up 
one street and down another, but the man was not to be 
seen. 

The next night he sat at the window again, and 
singularly enough there was the same mysterious stranger 
on the opposite side of the road. 

Mr. Simpkins wasn't quite sure what he should do. He 
thought a little diplomacy was advisable. He couldn't walk 
straight out and give a man into custody for listening to a 
musical box. 

" I must scrape acquaintance with this man somehow," 
he said, " and try the effect of a sudden surprise on his con- 
science. I've heard that's what detectives do." 

No sooner was the idea conceived than it was executed, 
and Mr. Simpkins was smoking a cigar and strolling up 
and down in front of his house. Singularly enough the 
other man strolled up and down too, and didn't seem in- 
clined to go. 

" Ah," thought Mr. Simpkins, " he wants to make an 
excuse, and speak to me. I'll give it him. He's playing 
into my hands." 

The stranger was now close to the amateur detective. 

" Beg pardon, sir," said the stranger, " but could you 
tell me what the rent of that house next door is ? " 

The house next door was to let, and empty, and the 
notice only gave the name of the agent to apply to. 

" I believe it's £60 a year," said Mr. Simpkins 



A MUSICAL BOX. zo 6 



" And could you tell me about the size of the rooms ? " 

Mr. Simpkins was delighted. The man was playing 
completely into his hands. 

" Very fair/' he answered ; "but they are the same size as 
mine, and if it is any convenience you can step into mine 
and see." 

The stranger seemed delighted at the proposition. 

" You are very good," he said, " and if it's no trouble 
I should like to. I'm looking for a house, and I want to 
decide at once." 

Mr. Simpkins led the way into his house, and showed the 
stranger over it. Then he prepared for his grand coup. 

He took him into his sitting-room, where the musical box 
was. 

The stranger's eyes were on it in a moment, and Mr. 
Simpkins noticed the look. 

In an innocent way, he remarked, " Ah, you are looking 

at my musical box." 

" Yes," said the stranger; " it seems a very good one." 

" Yes, it has a curious history — it belonged to a lady who 
was murdered." 

The stranger started. 

" Murdered ! Good heavens, you don't say that ! Why, 
when I " Then he suddenly paused and seemed con- 
fused. 

This was Simpkins's opportunity ; he ran to a drawer and 
pulled out the jewellery he had redeemed. 

"And these," he cried, holding them up to the man 
"also belonged to the murdered woman." 

***** 

" Oh, indeed," said the stranger; " well, then, I'm bound 
to inform you that you are my prisoner." 



204 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

"What do you mean?" cried Mr. Simpkins, starting 
back with astonishment. 

" I shall arrest you on your own confession of murdering 
Eva Littleton, and being in possession of the property stolen 
from her house on the night of the crime ! " 

Mr. Simpkins didn't know if he was on his head or his 
heels. 

" Do you know I'm a solicitor, sir?" he said. 

"Yes, I do," answered the man, " and I've suspected you 
ever since you gave evidence at the trial. It wasn't a bad 
dodge in case anyone should turn up who had seen you in 
the square that night." 

" What the deuce do you mean ?" 

" That I'm going to give you into custody ! Why, you've 
got the murdered woman's property! I always thought you 
had." 

Mr. Simpkins was dumb with amazement. He was so 
confounded and astonished that when the stranger put his 
head out of the window and shouted " Police ! " he simply 
sat down and waited, while a big crowd came outside and 
a policeman came up stairs, and when he found himself in a 
cab going to the station on a charge of murder, all he could 
say was, "Well, I'm blest! " 

***** 

At the station the stranger made the charge, and then 
Mr. Simpkins learned that he was an amateur detective, who 
was always trying to find out mysterious murders. He had 
lived in Blank-square, and knew the tunes the box used to 
play, and he had always said some day he should hear that 
box again, and he had ; and when he found out that the 
house it came from was the house of Mr. Simpkins, who at 
the trial had confessed he was in the square on the night of 



A MUSICAL BOX. 205 



the murder, he had put two and two together and been 
" diplomatic." 

Then Mr. Simpkins explained to the inspector that he 
had bought the tickets of a lady, and that he had been doing 
a little amateur detective business too ; and his story 
seemed so probable that at last the charge became a 
general conversation, and the amateur detective confessed 
perhaps he had been in too great a hurry in arresting Mr. 
Simpkins, and Mr. Simpkins confessed he had been in too 
great a hurry to suspect the amateur detective. 

" But why did you go so white when I showed you the 
jewellery?" asked Mr. Simpkins. 

" Because I thought I was alone with a murderer and a 
madman," answered the amateur detective. 

The inspector saw there was no case, so he detained the 
property and let Mr. Simpkins go home. 

The police set inquiries on foot for R. E. D., but they 
never found any trace ot her, and they came to the con- 
clusion that her husband, wherever he was, had committed 
the murder and pawned the things, and she had really 
found the letters when he died, and sold them, little think- 
ing that they were the connecting link of a mysterious 
murder. 

And since that day Mr. Simpkins has never purchased 
pawn-tickets advertised in the newspaper. A friendship 
has sprung up between him and "the stranger." They 
have both retired from the amateur detective business, but 
they often talk of the Blank-square murder, and the strange 
adventure it led them into, all through a musical box that 
played "Annie Laurie," "Home, sweet Home," " The Last 
Rose of Summer," and " I'm leaving thee in sorrow, Annie." 

ajj sfr: sfc sfc +. 



20 6 THREE BRASS BALLS. 



The murder here described will not be recognised. The 
circumstances have been altered, as the adventure in con- 
nection with the pawned property happened to a gentle- 
man well known in society. The mystery of the murder 
has never been revealed, nor the motive discovered, but 
the pawned property is still in the possession of the 
authorities. The gentleman has no desire to claim it. 
Amateur detectives are so fashionable now, he might be 
arrested again. 



Pledge XVII. 
A PAIR OF EARRINGS. 

A CROWD of roughs with a fringe of the respectable 
classes ; gangs of ragged boys and dirty women, with 
unkempt hair and battered bonnets ; here an Irish group 
discussing with animated gestures the misfortunes of an 
absent member ; there a pale-faced woman with a baby 
clasped in her arms, her eyes red and swollen with weeping; 
over all, a hubbub of jeers and oaths and gutter slang. 

The same crowd, differing only slightly in its elements, 
gathers almost daily at a certain hour outside Bow-street 
Police-station, for it is the time when " Black Maria," the 
prison van, stands waiting at the door, and the signal is 
given that the prisoners are coming out. 

A lad of about eighteen comes first — a full-blown 
specimen of the London rough ; he steps up jauntily, and 
his comrades in the crowd give him a cheer. He turns his 
wicked face round with a daring grin upon it, and waves 
his hand as the constables hustle him in, and shut him in 
one of the compartments. 

An old woman, her grey hair matted and dishevelled, her 
features grimed with dirt, and her rags caked with the filth 
of the streets, comes next, and her feeble limbs hesitating at 
the high steps, she is hoisted up with scant courtesy by the 
officials. 

" There's Biddy Maloney ! Good-bye, Biddy ! " shouts the 
Irish group, and Biddy launches out a wild Irish impreca- 



2oS THREE BRASS BALLS. 

tion as her farewell benison to her neighbours from the 
court hard by. 

The next " passenger " is a jaunty gentleman, in a light 
suit of the latest cut, and a tail hat set jauntily on one side ; 
he twirls his moustache as he gets into the van, and seems 
quite amused at his situation. As he passes in, he shouts 
out something which seems like a foreign language to the 
respectable fringe. It is thieves' patter, but someone in the 
crowd understands it well enough and answers him. The 
man is a swell mobsman caught picking pockets, and the 
gentleman in the crowd has probably been told whom the 
stolen watch and pocket-book have been passed to. 

There is a slight silence as the next "character" is 
brought down the steps of the court-house. " Poor fellow !" 
says a lady who has been stopped by the crowd on 
her way to Covent Garden Market ; " how respectable he 
looks." 

It is not a pleasant sight to see, this handsome young 
fellow of thirty, dressed like a gentleman, white faced, 
trembling, and abashed, as, with head bent low, he passes to 
the prison van. 

As he stands upon the step, a woman's cry of grief rings 
out loud and clear. He turns sharply at the sound, his white 
face flashes for a moment on the crowd, and he is gone. 

There are only four prisoners ; the door is banged to, the 
policemen leap into their places, the van drives off, and the 
crowd parts and dissolves. 

But one young girl still stands clutching the railings bv 
the court, and looking after the van with a look of unutter- 
able despair. It was she who uttered the cry It is her 
young husband ; the father of her little child, the man she 
trusted with her whole heart and soul, that she had just seen 



A PAIR OF EARRINGS. 209 



thrust into the prison van, with ragged outcasts and hardened 
sinners. 

Yesterday she believed him to be the best of men ; 
yesterday she held her baby up to him to kiss with all a 
mother's pride ; yesterday she thought that fortune was at 
their feet, and that nothing could break up that happy little 
home. 

To-day she knows that he has broken the laws of God 
and man ; to-day she knows that they have lived in a fool's 
paradise ; that the plenty with which she has been sur- 
rounded has been won by fraud ; that he whom she believed 
so noble and so good is a detected thief — a man who has 
betrayed the confidence reposed in him, and systematically 
robbed the firm who gave him a position of the highest trust. 

To-day she has listened, with ashen cheeks and a bursting 
heart, to the story of his systematic guilt, and her short 
dream of happiness is departed for ever. To-day she has 
learnt that she, too, has been cruelly deceived, and that 
while with loving care she husbanded the resources at home, 
he was squandering his ill-gotten wealth with dissolute men 
and women. 

She does not realise the worst all at once. All is forgotten 
for the moment but the shame of seeing her husband a 
prisoner. It is only when she kneels by the cradle of her 
little one in the desolate home whose master will come to it 
no more, that she realises the depth of her shame and 
humiliation. 

***** 

Winifred Marks knew the worst the day that her husband 
was sentenced to ten years' penal servitude. She knew 
then how he had deceived her from the first ; how he had 
married her when he was over head and ears in debt ; how 

O 



210 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

he had plunged further into crime to make a home and keep 
her in what he called "style"; and how, after a time, he 
had gone back to the old fast life he had led in the days 
before she crossed his path and inspired him with a pure 
passion. 

Ned Marks, with his handsome face and soft winning 
tongue, had made an easy capture of Winifred's heart in the 
old days when she walked to and fro between her mother's 
house and the florist's in Oxford-street where she was a 
shopwoman. He met her going home first, and rendered 
her a slight service in freeing her from the attention of an 
elderly Oxford-street pest. Then he came to the shop for 
buttonholes, and so — but why re-tell an old story ? Knowing 
that marriage was the end of the first volume of their 
romance, is there one of my readers, male and female, who 
cannot fill in the incidents for themselves ? 

Ned had got into a fast set. He had gambled and lost a 
lot of money ; he had, even in the days of his courtship, 
begun a system of fraud in order to supply his constantly 
impoverished exchequer. He held a fair position in a City 
counting-house, and his salary was £250 a year, but he 
lived up to treble the amount, and he was a gambler by 
instinct. 

Winifred came across his path like an angel of grace. 
He fell honestly in love with her, and determined, in his 
impetuous way, to marry her and live happy ever afterwards. 

Her mother died, and she was friendless and without 
counsel. She turned all the more readily to the shelter he 
offered her, and was as proud of her young, handsome 
husband as ever woman was of man. 

It was all couleur de rose for two years. Then Ned 
began to come home later and later, and to look ill and 



A PAIR OF EARRINGS. 211 



worried. He told her it was some important business of the 
firm that kept him late and worried him, and she never 
doubted it. She had all she wanted — a pretty home, no 
stint of money, and presently God gave her a little baby to 
keep her company when Ned was away. 

It was when the baby was six months old that suddenly 
the crash came and her idol was shattered. It was then that 
his wild wicked deeds were blazoned to the world, and she 
learned the lie he had lived so long. 

She loved him then more than ever. In his agony and 
shame she pitied him, and would have gladly borne his 
punishment for him. But the law hid him from her sight, 
left her husbandless and her child an orphan, and the law 
and her husband's creditors swept down upon his effects 
and left her homeless and penniless — a felon's wife with a 
baby at her breast. 

The law provided him with food and shelter and medical 
care because he was guilty ; the law cast her forth an 
outcast with her child, to beg or borrow, or steal or die, 
because she was innocent. 

The law takes no heed of the innocent wife and the 
helpless children when it seizes on the bread-winner. It 
knows nothing of ruined homes or broken hearts. To the 
guilty the law is merciful, to the innocent it is merciless. 

Society will take care that the felon's punishment is 
humane and tempered with mercy God help the felon's 
wife and babes, for they are no concern of Society's. 

Winifred Marks, a fortnight after her husband's sentence 
had been pronounced, was alone in the world with the 
clothes she had been allowed to keep and the baby nobody 
offered to keep for her. To live she must eat, to eat she 
must earn money. The only way to earn money was to take 

O 2 



2i2 THREE BRASS BALLS. 



a situation, and how could she do that with a baby in arms ? 
She had ten years of helpless widowhood to look forward to, 
and so, like the brave woman that she was, she looked the 
situation boldly in the face and determined, with God's help, 
to brave the storm and battle on till the law should give 
back the prodigal to her loving arms. 

In the long lonely nights after the first bitter blow she 
would lie with her baby at her breast and picture the ten 
years as past. She was twenty-four now, she would be 
thirty-four then, and Ned would be ten years older, and, oh, 
so changed ! 

She prayed to God to let her live, to help her to battle 
bravely through those weary years, for the child's sake — and 
for Ned's. 

***** 
"Boarding-House for Children." 

It was written in ugly black letters on a bit of board 
nailed above the door of a lonely house on the London road 
some twenty miles from town. 

It was a grim, forbidding house to look at. A small 
neglected garden surrounded it. Never a green leaf 
relieved the sad, sombre sameness of the grey brick walls. 
No human face peeped above the dirty muslin blinds that 
shrouded the windows. No sound of life came forth from 
it. It might have been a prison or the home of the dead. 
The notice on the board said that it was a boarding-house 
for children. 

They must be very good children to make so little noise 
the passer-by would think, as he gazed at the gloomy house 
and reading the legend listened for the sound of children's 
voices. 

But if he went on into the village, and asked curiously 



A PAIR OF EARRINGS 213 

about the children's home he had passed on the way, the 
mystery was solved. 

The place was a baby farm, kept by a stern, sour-faced 
woman, who ruled her charges with a rod of iron. There 
was short shrift there for the baby that made a noise, said 
gossip, and spiteful tongues whispered that there were many 
good reasons why the children were never seen. 

One bright afternoon in May a young woman with a baby 
in her arms stood looking anxiously at the lonely house. 

Apparently satisfied that it was the place she was in 
search of, she knocked timidly. 

The sour-faced woman came to the door. 

"Does Mrs. Grunton live here?" asked the young 
woman, betraying her nervousness in the trembling tone of 
her voice. 

" I'm Mrs. Grunton," was the answer ; and then, with a. 
diabolical grin that was meant for a smile, the woman added, 
glancing significantly at the baby, "Do you want to see me 
on business?" 

" Yes, if you please." 

Mrs. Grunton invited her visitor to step into the parlour, 
and begged her to state what she could do for her. 

The young woman summoned up her courage, and told 
her story. She wished to leave her baby with Mrs. Grunton, 
to whom she had been recommended by a friend. 

Mrs. Grunton would accept the charge on her usual 

terms. 

The terms were arranged, and the mother rose to leave. 
Kissing her baby, with the tears running down her cheeks, 
she placed it in Mrs. Grunton's arms, and begged her to be 
kind to it, and take care of it. She should come and see it 
as often as she could, and send the money regularly. 



:i4 THREE BRASS BALLS. 



" All right, my dear," said Mrs. Grunton, " of course you 
will. By-the-by, you haven't given me your name and 
address in case of accident." 

The mother blushed scarlet. 

" Is it necessary ? " 

" Well, it's as well. Of course you mean to pay regular, 
and all that sort of thing ; but accidents happen, and I 
might want to write to you. It's usual to have the address." 

The young woman hesitated a moment, then drew an 
.envelope from her pocket, and gave it to Mrs. Grunton. 

"That address will find me for the present." 

Mrs. Grunton glanced at it. The name was a little in- 
distinct. Would her visitor say what it was? 

" Winifred Marks." 

" Thanks. And the baby's name is " 

" Edward." 

They had reached the front door talking. Mrs. Grunton 
had the baby in her arms. As she stood on the doorstep, 
Winifred Marks turned and clasped the woman's hand. 

"Oh, Mrs. Grunton," she said, "you will take care of 
my baby, won't you ? I'm very poor, but I'll pay you well. 
I wouldn't part with him if I could help it, but I am forced 
to." 

" There, there," answered Mrs. Grunton as cheerily as 
she could, "your baby's as safe with me as if you had it 
yourself. The air here will do it good. You won't know it 
when you come again." 

Then the door closed, and the baby was shut from the 
yearning gaze of the young mother. And, with the tears 
streaming down her cheeks, Winifred Marks went back to 
London to take a situation and earn her daily bread. 

•I 5 % "P 5jC ;j* 



A PAIR OF EARRINGS. 215 

For a twelvemonth Winifred Marks kept her situation, 
toiling early and late for a paltry wage, just enough to keep 
her and to pay for the child. When from her scanty 
earnings she could save enough for the fare, she would go 
and see it, but once or twice she returned terrified and 
alarmed — the child looked so ill. 

But directly afterwards Mrs. Grunton would write and say 
that it was better, and she would be relieved. 

But she fell ill herself, and for a fortnight was out of work, 
and so had only just the money to send, and keeping out of 
work she fell in arrears with the child's money. 

One day she received a letter to say that unless the arrears 
were paid at once the child would be sent to the workhouse. 
" And if they won't take it," wrote the woman, " I sha'n't 
feed it on credit." 

The threat was inhuman. It went to the mother's heart 
at once. The idea of her little one starving was so terrible 
that it nearly drove the woman mad. 

She arose from her sick bed and dressed herself. She 
would go off there and then and fetch the child away. Then 
she remembered that the woman would not give it up 
without the money. 

Winifred had to dress respectably to keep her situation, 
but when she looked about her for something on which she 
could borrow money her clothes were the only things she 

saw. 

Then she remembered that in her little treasure-box she 
had still her husband's first present— the pair of gold 
earrings he had given her in the old happy sweethearting 
days. 

Because they were the first present, she had saved them 
from the wreck, and treasured them as something sacred. 



216 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

But now her baby was in danger, and to shield it she 
would have given her life itself. 

So she tenderly unwrapped the last link of the past from 
the white paper, and went over the road to where the golden 
balls swung in the sunshine. 

The earrings were bought in the days when Ned Marks 
scattered his gold with a light hand, and they were valuable 
ones. 

Winifred borrowed enough on them to pay her fare and 
have a balance for Mrs. Grunton's bill. If she could settle, 
she thought, she would be all right for another fortnight, and 
by that time she would have got to work again. 

Weak and ill as she was, she took the train and went 
down at once. When she came to the " Boarding-House 
for Children," and saw her little one, her heart stood still 
with terror. 

She snatched it from the woman's arms, and clasped it to 
her breast, as a tiger snatches its whelp from the foe. 

Death was in her baby's face. Its limbs were shrunken 
and wasted, its little cheeks were hollow, and its large eyes, 
gleaming with a strange light, stared from its head in a 
weird, wild way that told its own story. 

Fierce words and high woke the silence of Mrs. Grunton's 
abode that afternoon. Winifred accused her of neglecting 
her baby — of starving it. Then she burst out crying and 
became hysterical, and then she threatened and was spiteful 
again. 

Mrs. Grunton was used to scenes probably, for no muscle 
of her hard features relaxed.^ Only, when the mother rose 
to take her child away, Mrs. Grunton stood with her back 
to the door and held out her hand for the money. 

What could a weak, friendless woman and an agonised 



A PAIR OF EARRINGS. 217 



mother do but pay to the last farthing? Anything to 
get her child safe in her own loving arms, and see to it 
herself. ■■ 

Out on the London road, with the thin baby staring at 
her with its wild eyes, Winifred Marks for the first time 
realised her position. What was she to do with the child ? 

She had her return ticket, and went home with it, and 
braved the wrath of a hard-hearted landlady, whose rent 
was overdue. 

Up in the little room, half-starved herself, she nursed it 
and petted it, and tried her best to bring it back to health ; 
but the mother's love came too late. The " Boarding- 
House for Children " had done its work, and in a few days 
the staring eyes of the felon's child shut suddenly and its 
little thin limbs were rigid. 

Then, childless and alone, penniless and half-starved, 
the felon's wife lifted her tearless eyes to God and prayed 
to be at peace where her baby was. 

And in the hour of her supreme agony, tortured in body 
and mind, lacking food and lacking warmth, with a dead 
baby on her knee, and her future dark and dismal and 
devoid of hope, could she have peered through the dividing 
space, she would have seen the child's father, her guilty 
husband, and envied him his happy lot. 

He had a slight cold, and was in the prison infirmary 
warmly tucked up, and the atmosphere was kept at a suit- 
able temperature. By his side was a little jelly to tempt 
his dainty appetite, and near him sat the kind doctor, who 
was most solicitous about his health. All was order and 
cleanliness and comfort ; and as the convict lay back and 
dozed off peacefully he felt there were worse lots in the 
world than that of a felon. 



2i8 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

Ay, indeed! The lot of a felon's wife and child, for 
instance. 

* * * * * 

The earrings, unredeemed, hang to-day in the pawn- 
broker's shop, and there they may hang for some time. 
Perhaps they may hang there till Ned Marks's time is up, 
and he may see them and buy them again — perchance for 
some other lady-love. He may never recognise in them 
his first present to the girl who lost her baby and broke her 
heart because her punishment for being a felon's wife was 
greater than she could bear, and who died long before his 
ten years were over. 



Pledge XVIII. 
A FAMILY BIBLE. 

THEY were a strange couple, the Rev. John Hogard and 
his wife, and the gossips of Dorden talked about them 
rarely. 

Dorden dissents. Dorden is strong in chapels, and 
Dorden's besetting dissipation is prayer meetings. The 
Dordenites meet so often in strong bodies for lectures, 
magic-lanterns, and schoolroom entertainments, that news 
circulates rapidly. Add to this the fact that female Dorden 
is given to gathering in little knots at its neighbours' 
garden-gates, and that male Dorden goes to its local club 
and institute with great regularity, and you will easily 
understand how, in this pretty little village some thirty 
miles from town, everybody's business is known to every- 
body else. 

The Rev. John Hogard was known to everyone before 
he had been a resident ten days. When it was rumoured 
through the village that Myrtle Cottage had been 
taken by a clergyman, and a clergyman of the Church of 
England, there was quite a little flutter in the dovecotes of 
Dorden. They soon found out he was married, and were 
quite prepared to see a clerical gentleman of the ordinary 
Established Church type, and to find his wife a haughty 
dame on the wrong side of forty, who dressed severely, 
wore her own hair, and looked down upon Dissenters. 

The Rev. John and his wife arrived, and Dorden not only 



220 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

opened its eyes with astonishment, but its mouth too. 
Metaphorically speaking, it opened its mouth very widely 
indeed, and concerning the new arrivals it took Dorden a 
very long time to shut it. 

Certainly, if ever a couple gave legitimate cause for 
village gossip, it was the rev. gentleman and his better half. 

He was a nice-looking old gentleman, of about sixty- 
three, very tall and stern, and quiet, but with something 
very strange in his eyes. 

"A perfect gentleman," said everybody; "but there is 
something curious about him we can't quite make out. He 
looks as if he wasn't all there." 

Not being all there was a Dorden equivalent for being 
a little queer in the head. That was the worst thing gossip 
found to say about the gentleman. 

But about the lady. "Lady!" said Mrs. Sparkes, the 
butcher's wife ; " a pretty lady ! " and Mrs. Sparkes tossed 
her ringlets in a manner that spoke volumes. 

Mrs. Hogard, it must be confessed, did not look like a 
lady. She was a young woman of about three-and-twenty, 
her hair was died of a dirty yellow colour, her big, bold 
eyes seemed to leer by instinct, her cheeks were of roseate 
hue that Nature never imparted, and she dressed in a style 
which caused Dorden to blush to the roots of its hair. 

They were indeed a strange couple, this grey-headed, 
courteous, white-tied gentleman, and this fluffy, yellow- 
haired young woman, who walked and talked and dressed 
as no respectable woman ever did in this world. 

At least, so said Dorden, and the more the new arrivals 
were discussed, after chapel, at tea-meetings, and over 
garden-gates, the more widespread grew the belief that 
there was something very wrong about Mrs. Hogard. 



A FA MIL Y BIBLE. 2 2 1 



Myrtle Cottage was one of a row of houses — small 
country villas of the modern type ; five rooms, a front 
garden and a portico intended to be pretty. The rent was 
about £28 a year, and so Dorden came to the conclusion 
that the rev. gentleman was not going to live in grand style. 

Dorden was quite right. After a few weeks it was a well- 
established fact that the internal arrangements of Myrtle 
Cottage were as peculiar as its mistress. 

Strange tales flew round of very little meat from the 
butcher's and a great deal of brandy from the grocer's ; of 
strange sounds of oaths and threats spoken in a woman's 
voice ; and gradually people began to speak of the Rev. 
John Hogard with pity, for it was known that he was an old 
man married to a young woman who was not only low in 
her habits and vulgar in her dress, but who was, worse than 
all, a confirmed drunkard. 

Dorden puzzled its brains and speculated long as to how 
this ill-assorted couple came together. We who are 
privileged to peer back into the past may solve the mystery 
at once. 

The Rev. John Hogard was as kind-hearted and honest 
a gentleman as ever wore the Church's uniform. Wei' 
connected, and possessed of a good living, he passed twenty 
happy years, knowing no trouble and feeling none of life's 
bitterness, till the wife of his young manhood and middle 
age was taken suddenly from him. 

She fell forward dead in his arms one summer's day in the 
parsonage garden. 

The shock was great, and told upon his gentle nature. 
The place where she had died grew hateful to him. He saw 
her everywhere. His friends came about him and noticed 
his altered appearance, his restlessness, and the strange 



222 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

look in his eyes, and advised travel and change of 
scene. 

They made him resign his curacy and go to another part 
of England, to a famous health resort where the invalids 
and the hypochondriacs flock together at certain seasons of 
the year. 

His friends were wealthy, and kept him well supplied 
with funds. His elder brother, a high dignitary of the 
Church, told him not to trouble himself with work, but to 
seek health, and so, leading an idle and purposeless life, the 
widower stayed on at the fashionable watering place, killing 
time and brooding over his loss. 

There is no doubt that this loss had seriously affected 
him. It had not made him mad in any strict sense of the 
word, but it had weakened his brain ; it had left him in a 
weak, unsettled condition, in which an evil-designed person 
might easily take advantage of him. 

In an unfortunate hour such a person crossed his path, 
and, to make it all the worse, that person was a woman. 
Chance flung him into acquaintanceship with a red-cheeked, 
yellow-haired young woman, who said she was a governess 
in a nobleman's family, and that she had been sent out of 
town to recover from an illness which she had contracted 
in her employer's service. 

Maud Harrington set her cap at the Rev. John Hogard 
from the first — why, who can say ? The true history of her 
life, if told, might explain her motive. She had been no 
governess at all. Her early career it might not be well to 
inquire too closely into. She was a bad, designing woman, 
and was perhaps tired of the hand-to-mouth, rich to-day 
and poor to-morrow, life she had been leading. She 
evidently thought that this clergyman, whom she imagined 



A FAMILY BIBLE. 



to be wealthy and who was known to be highly connected, 
could give her a permanent home, position, and the means 
of gratifying her insatiable vanity. 

She tried the game on, and succeeded beyond her ex- 
p ctations. In a month she stood at the altar with her 
di pe, and he swore to love and cherish a heartless and 
al andoned adventuress. 

The news of the rev. gentleman's second marriage reached 
his friends speedily. They were astonished at first — dis- 
gusted when they had made inquiries, and found out what 
manner of woman it was who could claim kinship with them. 

The wealthy relatives and the high dignitary of the 
Church wrapped themselves in the mantles of their respect- 
ability, and bade the erring one pass by on the other side. 

The Rev. John and his yellow-haired wife found all doors 
closed against them. In the expressive language of Society, 
they were " cut dead." 

Foiled in her desire to obtain social recognition and to 
lead a fashionable life, Mrs. Hogard took to an old amuse- 
ment of hers with renewed ardour, She had learned early 
in her career a means of deadening shame and drowning 
care ; and, now that there was nothing to relieve the 
monotony of her life but the, to her, senseless chatter of a 
dotard, she sought relief from the old source. 

It was only by degrees that the utter worthlessness of the 
woman who had caught him in her toils dawned upon the 
poor clergyman, and the discovery made still further havoc 
upon his rapidly-decaying powers. 

He came to Dorden to hide and be quiet, to recruit his 
health if possible, and, in a place where he was unknown, 
to endure the burden of his shame. But, alas ! each day it 
grew heavier. The demon drink had got so fast a hold of 



224 THREE BRASS BALLS. 



the woman now that she was beyond all reclaim, and to the 
shame of being linked for life to a worthless woman came 
the terror of being alone with a furious drunkard. 

His health began to fail visibly under the double blow, 
and Dorden, knowing of the drunken wife, saw the grey- 
headed old clergyman shuffle along, bent and broken, as he 
went for his morning walk, and pitied him. 

They pitied him more than ever when, later on, they 
learned that his worst trouble had yet to come. 

This is no romance deftly spun in a novelist's brain. 
This is but one of those life-histories whose truth is 
stranger than aught fiction can furnish. 

Lately in this village of Dorden I stood opposite 
Myrtle Cottage as the early May sunshine smiled upon 
the little front garden, and heard its history from one who 
at the last was the truest friend poor Parson Hogard ever 
had. 

It was she who told me how one day, being then his next- 
door neighbour, there came a low, half-frightened tap at the 
door, and when they opened it, there, standing in the cold — • 
it was a raw winter day — was the poor old clergyman, his 
lips blue, and his features pinched and pallid. 

At the proffered invitation he timidly slipped into the 
room, and then half childishly began to whimper and 
mumble out that he was very sorry to ask it, but could they 
lend him a little coal to make a fire. His wife had gone to 
London, and he had no coals. 

And while he spoke he cast such longing looks at the 
dinner-table that he was invited to sit down and eat. 

He ate like a wolf ! 

He ate like a starved wretch that feels the fiercest pangs 
of hunger/ 



A FAMILY BIBLE. 225 



His secret was revealed, though he had kept it so well. 

He had been driven out of his house as the animal is 
driven from its lair — by the pangs of hunger. 

Hi^ wife had taken all the money in the place and gone 
up to London, and left him alone without warmth and with- 
out food. 

She came back that night mad drunk, and the parson was 
seen no more outside for a time. 

On the same day of the following month the feeble tap 
came at the door again. 

This time there was no excuse made. 

Broken down in body and mind alike, the old gentleman 
had lost the art of concealing his trouble. To the good 
soul who had been his friend he sobbed forth his misery, 
and to her he came for the food which was to keep life in 
him. 

Once a month the small allowance which his relations 
still allowed him was forwarded through the solicitors. And 
regularly as it came his wife seized it and went off and 
spent it in drink, coming home only when the uttermost 
farthing was spent. 

Drink ! drink ! drink ! That was all she thought of now. 
The home had gone to wreck and ruin ; the furniture bit 
by bit was being sold ; his books, his clothes, all were going, 
that she might gratify her fierce, unholy thirst. 

Hunger she did not feel — about his hunger she never 
cared. Warmth brandy gave her — that he needed warmth 
in the chill winter days she never thought — or, if she did 
think about it, she did not care. 

The neighbours began to know how bad things were 
with the poor old parson. Now and then Dorden, to its 
credit did sundry good deeds by stealth. 



226 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

The old man found it worth his while to go out when he 
was cold and hungry. Doors were opened to him, and he 
was bidden sit by the fire and chat, and strange to say it 
often happened when he came in that there was a cold 
meat pie, which Mrs. Jones would like him to taste, or Mrs. 
Brown had got some stew just going to be served up for 
dinner. Would he stay and try a little ? 

He was very grateful, and would mumble his thanks ; and 
sometimes, too, he would cry, for the poor troubled mind 
Was getting weaker than ever. 

That he was poor and in trouble grew so well known at 
last that somehow the high dignitary of the Church heard 
of it, and he sent him now and then a hamper with hares 
and pheasants, and sometimes a joint would find its way 
into the hamper. 

Unfortunately this generosity was thrown away, for the 
hampers were opened by the yellow-haired lady, who bore 
the hares and the game in triumph to the nearest market 
town and there sold them. And every hamper day Dorden 
knew that at nightfall the clergyman's lady would reel into 
the village drunk on the proceeds of the day's sale. 

When the second winter came round the Rev. John had 
grown so feeble that he hobbled along to his neighbours 
slowly, and leant on a big stick. 

He came one day to the house next door to him with a 
scared white face, which looked all the whiter for the deep 
red mark round his eye. He was trembling like a child, 
and looked frightened, as though he feared someone was 
following him. 

"She did that," he whimpered, presently; "she hit me. 
I asked her for some bread because I was hungry, and she 
hit me." 



A FAMILY BIBLE. 227 

He cowered down as he spoke, and rubbed his hands 
together childishly, looking into the fire. 

They comforted him as best they could, and tried to coax 
more of his story from him, but his mind was wandering. 

Suddenly he burst out with a long, incoherent story of 
his old days. He was happy and rich and respected again. 
He told them of his first wife, and then of his rich relations, 
and how they'd all loved him once and been good friends 
to him. 

"But now," he muttered, becoming lachrymose again, 
" I haven't a friend in the world." 

He stayed till nightfall, and then tottered back to his home. 

Three days went by, and no one saw him. 

Then the neighbour who had first been kind to him 
plucked up courage and went to Myrtle Cottage and 
knocked at the door. 

The yellow-haired one answered her. Her face fiery red 
with drink, her eyes fierce and wild, she put her arms 
akimbo and requested to know her visitor's business. 

" I want to see Mr. Hogard," was the reply. 

" He won't see anybody. He doesn't like people to 
come prying into his business. They'd better mind their 
own." 

Then the door was banged-to in her face. 

The days went by, and still the old clergyman remained 
within doors. The neighbours had their eyes open, how- 
ever, and they talked more than usual at the tea-meetings 
and at the garden-gate. 

One told how the things had been sent away from the 
house lately and sold. Another had heard that even the old 
gentleman's clothes had found their way to the village 
pawnshop. 



228 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

Then the gossips put their heads together and compared 
notes, and by so doing it was calculated that, beyond the 
clergyman and his wife, Myrtle Cottage at the present time 
could contain very little. 

Mrs. Hogard had been watched lately, and her journeys 
had been to two places, the pawnshop and the public-house. 
She generally called at the former first. 

It was one day when the old clergyman had not been 
•seen out of doors for three weeks that Mrs. Hogard went 
staggering through the village with a huge book under her 
arm. 

It was patent to everyone what it was, and a thrill of 
horror went through the dissenting bosom of righteous 
Dorden at the sight. 

Under her arm the clergyman's wife carried a family Bible, 
and everyone guessed its destination. 

Things must have come to a pretty pass at Myrtle Cot- 
tage if the family Bible of a clergyman was going to the 
pawnshop. 

An hour afterwards Mrs. Hogard, walking unsteadily, and 
with a bottle poking its neck from under her mantle, came 
.down towards her home. 

The whole of the village could see how drunk she was, 
and the women came to the doors and watched her. 

Suddenly they saw her stumble and go down all of a 
heap. 

There were a crash and a shriek then ; the people, 
running, found her lying on her face, while from her 
trickled a little stream of mingled brandy and blood. 

She had stumbled over a stone, fallen forward, and the 
bottle in her arms shivering, a great jagged piece of glass 
had cut her throat. 



A FAMILY BIBLE. 229 

They picked her up and carried her into the nearest 
house. Clasped in her hand was the ticket of the Rev. 
John Hogard's family Bible, and that, too, was smeared and 
splashed with the strangely mingled fluid. 

***** 

While his wife lay wounded in the village, some of the 
neighbours went off to Myrtle Cottage to break the news to 
her unhappy husband. 

They knocked and received no answer. They knocked 
louder and yet louder, and shouted; and still no answer came. 

Then they burst the door, and went fearfully in, one 
behind the other, dreading what they might see. 

Through the lower rooms they searched, and found them 
almost bare ; the floors were dirty, and the few pieces of 
furniture left gave evidence of neglect and violent treat- 
ment. 

Up in the room above they found what they were in.* 
search of. 

The Rev. John Hogard lay on an untidy bed, an old' 
blanket thrown over him. 

He did not move when the neighbours entered his room, 
only his eyes turned towards the door with a strange, vacant 
look. 

"Where's my wife?" he mumbled. " Why doesn't she 
bring me some food ? I'm hungry." 

The neighbours came about him and gathered a strange 
story from his disjointed utterances. The old clergyman 
was quite childish now, but he knew that the pangs of 
hunger were strong upon him. Little by little it came out 
that he had hardly tasted food for days — that even his 
clothes had been taken from him by his wife and pawned for 
drink. 



230 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

" I'm so ill and so hungry," he groaned. " Why doesn't 
my wife come ? " 

Dorden was moved to its heart when it heard that the 
poor old clergyman had been found in a state of absolute 
starvation. All that Dorden could do it did, but the help 
came too late. The Rev. John Hogard was past human 
help. 

He grew weaker and weaker, and still mumbled and asked 
for the wife who did not come. 

Just before the end, far-off scenes came back again to the 
darkened mind, and he was in the garden of the parsonage 
with the first wife he had loved so well. 

All Dorden went to his funeral, and the high dignitary of 
the Church sent his carriage to join in the procession, 
***** 

Mrs. John Hogard recovered in the infirmary from her 
wound, and was out again soon after her husband had been 
buried, but her red face and yellow hair were seen no more 
in Dorden. 

A few months back a woman, who said she was a clergy- 
man's widow, was indicted at the Middlesex Sessions for 
robbing an old man with whom she had been drinking, and 
was sent to prison. 

Her story that she was a clergyman's widow was not 
investigated. Had it been it would have been found to be 
quite true. The wretched outcast in the dock was once the 
yellow-haired and drunken wife of the Rev. John Howard 
There was still the scar across her throat where the broken 
bottle cut her the day she pawned her husband's family 
Bible and got drunk with the money. 



Pledge XIX. 
VARIOUS. 

MRS. MORIARTY was the best of wives, and a splendid 
manageress. Mr. Moriarty thought so at least, and openly 
said so. Mr. Moriarty's employment was a precarious and 
mysterious one, yet for ten years he had lived in Little 
Georgiana-street, keeping a house, voting at elections, and 
fetching the supper-beer from the public-house at the corner 
with praiseworthy regularity. 

Little Georgiana-street was not aristocratic, and had no 
high-flown notions. It was chiefly remarkable for the crowds 
•of dirty children upon its doorsteps, and the free-and-easy 
conversations which the neighbours held with each other 
from the upper windows of their houses. 

It was a street where the blinds were more often twisted 
round than pulled up, where wounded panes were healed 
with brown paper plaisters, and where the outward and 
visible signs of resident female industry were plentifully 
placarded in parlour windows. 

" Mano-linsr done here," "Ladies' own materials made 
up," "Work done with a sewing machine," and " Charing 
in all its branches," were among the many legends of the 
street which he who ran might read. 

There was another peculiarity about Georgiana-street, 
ana that was the way its knockers were used. 

The oldest inhabitant had never heard a rat-tat-tat given 
at a Georgiana-street front door. Ladies and gentlemen 



THREE BRASS BALLS. 



knocking about the neighbourhood knew better than to 
cause such confusion to a household. 

A rat-tat-tat in Georgiana-street would have brought 
every occupied floor to the door, as nobody could have 
known for whom it was intended. 

In Georgiana-street you ring the bell for the basement, 
knock once for the ground floor, twice for the first, and 
three times for the top. No fancy flourishes, no variations 
on the knocker will do there. The knocks must be clear 
distinct thumps, with a pause between each, so that the 
listeners can count them and know whose business it is to 
answer the door. 

From this you will naturally infer that Georgiana-street 
let lodgings, and you will be quite right. The householders 
generally contented themselves with two rooms and a kitchen, 
and "let off" the rest. Mr. Moriarty was no exception 
to the rule, and by letting lodgings he paid his rent. 

How he got his living, as I have previously stated, was a 
mystery. Mrs. Moriarty didn't know, and he himself wasn't 
always quite sure about it. But by some means or another 
he managed to rub on, sometimes having a good week and 
sometimes a bad one, and relying always on Mrs. Moriarty's 
splendid management to pull him through. 

The Moriartys were magnificent specimens of the come- 
day, go-day, God-send Sunday class. The week drifted 
by, and there was a wild struggle to tide over Saturday 
night with a view of floating peacefully into the haven of 
Sunday with a hot dinner; clean linen, the master's black 
suit, and the missus's best gown and bonnet, and enough 
loose cash over for an occasional outing. 

Saturday night was a struggle, and then it was that the 
management of Mrs. Moriarty asserted itself. 



VARIOUS. 233 



The best clothes were generally pawned about Tuesday, 
the tablecloth, the parlour clock, and various other articles, 
useful and ornamental, saw the Moriartys over Wednes- 
day ; odds and ends, kitchen utensils, &c, insured Thurs- 
day's necessities, and Friday made shift the best way it 
could. 

But Saturday was a dreadful day. On Saturday the shop- 
ping had to be done, on Saturday the finery had to be re- 
deemed, and old scores cleared off, on Saturday Sunday's 
dinner had to be got in, and not only the dinner, but the 
means of cooking it. 

The sacrifices of the week had to be redeemed on Satur- 
day night, and although on Monday they could begin to 
float back again, and become money once more, there was 
the intervening Sunday during which they must represent 
invested capital. 

It was in solving the problem of having your goods and 
the money they represented — in having, as it were, your 
cake and eating it too — that the wife of Mr. Moriarty's 
honest bosom earned his loudly-proclaimed certificate that 
she was " the wonderfullest woman at managin' as ever 
was." 

Mrs. Moriarty was proud of her honourable distinction 
and the fame it won her. Young housewives in the neigh- 
bourhood sought her advice eagerly. " What to pawn, 
where to pawn, and how to pawn," was the subject of a 
lecture which Mrs. Moriarty delivered gratis on many a 
Saturday night at the house of call in Georgiana-street, 
where the ladies of the neighbourhood exchanged confi- 
dences over the marketing glass. 

But one eventful day the great Past-Mistress of the Art 
of Domestic Management, the famous authoress of " Ho^v 



234 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

to Live on Nothing a Week," found even her resources 
heavily taxed. 

There came a crisis over which nothing but absolute 
genius could triumph. 

Did Mrs. Moriarty rise to the height of the occasion, o r 
did she yield at last to the army of difficulties which the 
Fates arrayed against her ? 

Maria Moriarty, the best manageress in Georgiana-street, 
here let the history of your famous struggle with circum- 
stances be narrated. This Sunday morning, when, having 
given John Moriarty his second cup of tea, you furtively 
snatch the Dispatch from him and turn to the " Three Brass 
Balls," I have no doubt you will blush to find it fame. 

The blow came late one Thursday night, the night when 
matters were at their lowest ebb. Mr. Moriarty came home 
about eight, and there was a letter for him on the kitchen 
table. 

He opened it, read it, said "Phew! Well, I'm blest! 
Here's a go ! " and made use of various other ejaculations, 
expressive but by no means explanatory. 

When he had recovered himself from the effect of what 
was evidently very startling intelligence, he called up stairs 
to Maria. 

Maria was at the front door taking the air and gratifying 
the sight-seeing instincts of the female breast by watching 
the undertakers' men trying to get a very wide coffin into 
the very narrow doorway of the opposite house. 

Maria did not at first respond like a dutiful wife to the 
voice of him she had promised at the altar to obey, for the 
coffin had stuck and the situation had grown deeply interest- 
ing. Furthermore, the wife of the gentleman for whom the 
coffin was intended had appeared at an upper window, and 



VARIOUS. 235 



was giving a sympathetic doorstep audience a full, true, and 
particular account of the last hours of her " poor dear,' 
and had just got to the period when " he went off like a 
lamb, fancying he was a-playin' skittles and a-shoutin' out 
as he'd got a pint on the game and Joe Smith wasn't playin' 
fair." So Mrs. Moriarty lingered, and allowed Mr. Moriarty 
to shout out " Mariar ! " three times before she turned from 
the door and went down stairs. 

Then she found Mr. Moriarty in a state of intense ex- 
citement, which she called upon him to explain. 

The explanation was simple. Mr. Moriarty's uncle and 
aunt in the country, of whom he had expectations, were 
coming on an unexpected visit to town, and would arrive 
on Friday. They had invited themselves to stay with Mr. 
Moriarty, and trusted he would arrange to lodge them and 
take them to see everything in London on Saturday, as on 
Saturday night they returned to their native village. 

When Mrs. Moriarty had heard her husband's explana- 
tion she sat down in a chair the picture of blank despair. 

This uncle and aunt she knew were people to be made a 
fuss with. This uncle and aunt were reported to have saved 
at least £200. This uncle and aunt had given them hospi- 
tality several times when they had scraped up the money 
for a couple of days in the country. This uncle and aunt 
had always been led to believe that in London Mr. and 
Mrs. Moriarty were very great people indeed, and now this 
uncle and aunt were coming to see for themselves, and, of 
all days of the week, on a Friday. 

" We must manage it somehow, Mariar," said Mr. 
Moriarty in a hollow voice. 

" It's all very well to say somehow" answered Maria, 
bridling up ; " what how is what I want to know." 



THREE BRASS BALLS. 



"You're a wonder, my dear, at managing," artfully 
suggested the master of the house ; " I'm sure if you was 
to set your wits to work you'd manage it." 

" Look here, Mr. Moriarty, this is Thursday ; they're 
coming to-morrow. How much have you got? " 

Mr. Moriarty put his hands into his pockets and fumbled. 
The result was two half-crowns, a florin, a shilling, a screw 
of tobacco, three halfpence, and a clay pipe. 

Mrs. Moriarty surveyed the result of this voyage of dis- 
covery with scorn. 

" Now, look here," she said ; " this is what I've got." 

And then from her pocket she produced a little bundle of 
pawn-tickets. 

" There's your Sunday clothes, there's the parlour clock f 
there's the big saucepan, the best tablecloth, the clean 
sheets, the blankets, the plated forks, and the best teapot." 

And as the good lady mentioned each of the articles on 
which they had lived during the week, she laid the pawn- 
broker's receipt for it on the table. 

Mr. Moriarty suggested with a sickly smile that this uncle 
would have to be visited before the visit of the other uncle 
could be decently arranged for. 

" It's no joking matter," said Mrs. Moriarty indignantly. 
" All these things must be got out if they're coming to stay 
here, and we're to go out with 'em on Saturday. Now, if 
it had been Sunday, I could have managed as usual." 

" Of course you could, my dear. We should have had 
the first floor's and the top floor's rent, and with your 

management I say, my dear ; do you think the first 

floor 'ud pay his rent to-day instead of Saturday, to 
oblige us ? " 

"John Moriarty, you're a fool ! " 



VARIOUS. 237 



It was foolish to imagine such a thing, and John confessed 
it. Still, something must be done. 

Presently Mrs. Moriarty rose from her seat and paced 
the room. She was evidently in thought, and John refrained 
from disturbing her. Presently she put her foot down, and 
exclaimed triumphantly " I've got it ! " 

Mr. Moriarty looked down. He expected to see a black- 
beetle a flat corpse beneath the foot of his lady-love. 

There was no romance in John Moriarty's nature. " Got 
what, my dear ? " he inquired nervously, when, the foot 
being moved, no victim was to be seen. 

"An idea," answered his spouse. "I believe I can 
manage it." 

Mr. Moriarty rubbed his hands. " I knew you could, my 
dear — I knew you could," he exclaimed gleefully ; " you're 
the wonderfullest woman at managing as ever was ; I 
always said so, and now I know it." 

It was not an easy task to redeem all those articles with 

eight shillings and three halfpence, and none but a domestic 

genius like Mrs. Moriarty could have conceived the plan or 

carried it to a successful issue. 

***** 

Early the next morning Mrs. Moriarty set to work. The 
guests were to arrive at midday, and there was no time to 
lose. She went round to the tradespeople where her credit 
was good till Saturday, and purchased the meat and vege- 
tables, tea and butter, &c, necessary for the feeding of the 
expected aunt and uncle. 

Having secured a fine piece of boiling beef, the first 
difficulty was the large saucepan to boil it in ; that had to be 
redeemed. The stock of ready-money was sufficient for 
that and so the beef in the saucepan was speedily on the fire. 



2-,S THREE BRASS BALLS. 



Mr. Moriarty remained at home to superintend, for the 
exigencies of the case demanded much running out on the 
part of his better half. 

The next thing was to get the rooms tidy and have the 
parlour clock, which was such an ornament to the mantel- 
piece ; uncle and aunt must see it when they arrived, and 
then the rest was easy. 

Running up stairs to the bed-room — the room which was 
to be aunt and uncle's, for Mr. and Mrs. Moriarty would 
make shift in the parlour with the sofa — the clever house- 
wife slipped off the dirty sheets and the blankets, and went 
off to the pawnshop with them. What she got on them re- 
deemed the clock. At the same time she took the parlour 
table-cover and pawned it for enough to redeem the white 
tablecloth. This was put on the table as if laid for an early 
dinner. 

At midday aunt and uncle arrived, and were entertained 
in the parlour by Mr. Moriarty, while Mrs. M. busied her- 
self in the kitchen, John having strict instructions to keep 
them out of the way. 

Directly the beef was boiled it was put on a dish and 
covered over, while the saucepan was hurried off again to 
"uncle's." The big saucepan and one or two smaller 
utensils were pawned for enough to redeem the plated 
forks ; and hot, but happy, Mrs. Moriarty returned, 
finished laying the table, and took her place at the head 
of it. 

After dinner John took uncle and aunt up to the top of 
the street, and showed them the way to the park. They 
were to stroll about, and return in time for tea, when he 
and Maria would be dressed and ready to go out with 
them. 



VARIOUS. 239 



Directly they were out of sight, the best tablecloth was 
hurried off and pawned, and the table-cover redeemed with 
the proceeds. 

Now the most difficult task of all had to be approached, 
and it worried the Moriartys very much. John's Sunday 
clothes had to be redeemed that he might accompany his 
revered relatives to the play. 

Off went Mrs. Moriarty with all her own finery, and 
pawned it to redeem John's things. John should take the 
visitors out to-day, and then to-morrow he should have 
business and stay at home while Mrs. Moriarty took them 
out. Then she could pawn his things and redeem her own 
with the proceeds. 

This arrangement being agreed to, all was well as far as it 
went. After tea John departed in his holiday apparel to 
escort his visitors to the theatre, leaving his wife at home to 
complete her management. 

The bed had to be made up for the guests now, and the 
clean things put on it. The parlour clock had done its 
duty ; it had been seen ; it could easily stop, and be sent 
away to be cleaned and repaired. Under Mrs. Moriarty's 
arm it went to the famous depository whose sign is three 
golden balls, and was pawned for nearly enough to redeem 
the blankets and sheets. The balance was made up with 
the parlour fire-irons, which had hitherto escaped the con- 
scription. 

The bed was comfortably made up by the time aunt and 
uncle returned. John was loudly informed that the clock 
had suddenly gone wrong, and, it being so awkward not to 
know the time, had been sent up the street to be repaired, 
and the white tablecloth was not missed, as supper was 
brought in on a tray. 



240 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

That night Mr. and Mrs. Moriarty slept the sleep of the 
just in a make-shift on the sofa, the table-cover and various 
ingenious contrivances doing duty tor bed-clothes. 

In the morning the table-cover went in early, and the 
tablecloth came out in time for breakfast. Mrs. Moriarty 
cautiously effected the change of clothes, pledging John's 
and redeeming her own, and then she chaperoned the 
country visitors through the cheap sights, leaving John at 
home with full instructions as to the various necessary 
manoeuvres in ringing the changes with the pledges. 

The visitors were to depart that evening, so John took 
the sheets and blankets over at once. The cold beef was to 
be for dinner, so the saucepan remained in ; the white cloth 
remained on, the table-cover not being required till dinner 
was over, so that the sheets and blankets yielded the ready- 
money which John required to carry on with, it being 
necessary to lay in various little things. 

The party returned to dinner, and after dinner they 
suggested that the house should be shut up, and that both 
John and Maria should go out shopping with them, and 
accompany them to the station. 

No excuse would be accepted. 

" Go and change thy clothes, lad," said uncle, " and 
come wi' us. 'Tain't often I trouble thee, and I'd like for 
us a' to have a walk." 

The Moriartys exchanged signals of distress, and got out 
of the room together. 

The capital required to complete the arrangement was 
barely sufficient, and here was John's suit to be got out. 

What was to be done ? 

John counted up what he could spare, and it was far short 
of the necessary sum. 



VARIOUS. 241 



They rushed into the kitchen and up to the bed-room. 
There was nothing pawnable. All the available things 
were in the parlour, and how could they get them out 
unobserved. 

It wasn't the slightest use trying for the rent yet. The 
second floor didn't come home till eight, and the top floor 
rarely " parted " before Monday morning. 

Even Mrs. Moriarty was nonplussed. 

If aunt and uncle had only been outside, she could have 
pawned the contents of the house without removing them. 
The pawnbrokers will take the key, and lend you so much. 
She could redeem them before the lodgers wanted to come 
in. But aunt and uncle were in the room, you see. 

Suddenly the " wonderfullest of manageresses" had an 
idea. "Mr. Bloggs" (that was the pawnbroker) "knows 
us, and he's a decent sort," she said. " Go over, and 
change there, and leave what you've got in your pocket to 
make up the difference." 

It was a brilliant idea. Mr. Moriarty rushed off and 
found Mr. Bloggs willing to oblige. He changed in the 
pawnbroker's back parlour, pawned his every-day clothes, 
with five shillings in the pocket ; and Mr. Bloggs, out of 
consideration for an old customer, lent him enough on them 
to redeem his best. 

Ten minutes afterwards aunt and uncle walked up 
Georgiana-street, with Mr. and Mrs. Moriarty both in their 
best clothes, and the neighbourhood stood on its front 
doorsteps and wondered where " they was off to " in their 

Sunday clothes. 

***** 
At the station that evening there was an affectionate 
leave-taking, and uncle was so delighted with the hospitality 

Q 



242 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

he had received that he chucked Mrs. Moriarty under the 
chin, and presented her with a rive-pound note to buy 
herself a present in remembrance of his visit to town. 

That Saturday night there was a great redemption going 
on, and the Moriartys talked over Mrs. M.'s excellent 
" management " with a pleasure heightened by the fact that 
uncle's fiver had restored to them all their opignerated 
household gods. 

'' Mariar, my dear/' said Mr. Moriarty, at supper, "you've 
managed excellent. Why, I do believe, give you only a 
frying-pan and a teapot, you'd keep house for nothing as 
long as we'd just got enough to pay the interest." 

The question of the interest and the halfpenny for each 
ticket is a mere trifle to the ladies and gentlemen of the 
Moriarty type. Lord Shaftesbury and his fellow philanthro- 
pists are great upon the question of "thrift." I wonder 
whether they know that among a certain class of the poor 
the Moriarty system of management largely prevails, and 
that a big portion of many a working man's scanty wage 
goes to fill the pawnbroker's till with interest and ticket- 
money, in consequence of the system of weekly pawning 
and redeeming which, down Georgiana and kindred streets, 
is considered part and parcel of skilful household manage- 
ment. 

The struggling poor, by this system of weekly pawning, 
pay interest for loans on good security which would cause 
many a Cork-street money-lender's client to shudder. 
When our legislators have five minutes to spare, they might 
give a glance at our pawnbroking system as it affects the 
necessitous poor, and compare it with that of foreign 
countries. In Austria pawnbroking is a charitable institu- 
tion, and the State lends to the poor man money on his 



VARIOUS. 243 



goods without interest. In England the private trader is 
authorised by law to charge 20 per cent., and something for 
the ticket. The ginshop and the pawnshop are the great 
twin brethren who stand like ogres in the paths of those 
who aim at the social reformation of the poor. And the 
Government of this country stands behind the ogres and 
backs them up. 



Pledge XX. 
A WAR MEDAL. 

At the prison gates in the early morning stands a poor 
old woman, crippled and bent with age. A battered 
bonnet, a shabby shawl, threadbare with long years of wear, 
and its once glaring colours faded to a uniform dirty drab, 
and a dress that bears the mark of long exposure to rain 
and sun, — these are the outward and visible signs of old 
Nanny Nettleship's rank and calling. 

Eighty winters have set their snow upon her scanty hair, 
and Time's cruel fingers have pinched the thin face into 
wrinkles and puckers and seams, but still the aching limbs 
must travel and toil, for there are little mouths that would 
lack food did old Nannv Nettleship fold her hands in idleness 
and rest her weary bones. 

One of those little mouths is puckered with a baby smile 
now at the prison gates as a little mite of six holding 
Nanny's hand looks up into her face and lisps : 

" Look, granny ! even God's glad daddy's coming out to- 
day. See how He's making the sun shine." 

" Yes, dearie," answers the old woman ; and then mutters 
to herself, " It's many a long day since a bit o' sunshine 
gladdened his heart, poor boy " 

" How long will daddy be, granny ? " 

" Not long, my pet." 

" Granny, will God ever shut me up in a big black place 
like this ? " 



A WAR MEDAL 



245 



" The Lord forbid, my pet ! There's a pretty gee- 
gee " 

The old woman wishes to interrupt her grandchild's 
prattle. Little Louie is given to that baby blasphemy which 
City Missions and Sunday-schools are mainly responsible 
for ; and the old lady has an idea that it is wicked. Louie 
brings her the Sunday-school religion second-hand, and 
sometimes a little bit mixed ; and old Nanny, who has had 
a rough time of it in this world, finds Sunday-school religion 
a hard nut to crack. 

Louie's teacher has told her that God put her father in 
prison for being wicked, and one day the child came home 
terrified, and cried out that her poor daddy would have to 
go to an awful place and be burnt with fire if he didn't 
" 'pent." Teacher had told her so. 

Old Nanny dratted the teacher's " imperence," and 
soothed the little one by telling her it was all a pack of 
lies. 

And the next day the missionary called and expostulated, 
and informed the old lady that, if she interfered with his 
religious instruction, the occasional grants of tea and sugar, 
blankets and coals, which the Mission found it worth while 
to bestow, would be cut off. 

After that Nanny held her peace. She let the Mission 
consign her son to the flames hereafter for the sake of the 
present warmth of the blankets. 

All the help that could be got was wanted for Dan 
Nettleship's family. Dan was doing his two years for a 
robbery with which he had been mixed up. Dan's wife, 
poor woman, lay on a bed of sickness, sinking slowly out of 
her misery, and Dan's three little children had to be reared 
and fed somehow. 



246 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

When the sentence was pronounced, Nanny was in court. 
It broke her heart that her Dan should come to shame, for 
the Nettleships came of honest stock. 

Dan's father had fought his country's battles, and left his 
arms and legs and eyes scattered about the globe, and in 
his old age a grateful country allowed him a trifle to keep 
all that was left of him from starving. 

But when the remains of the old pensioner's body went 
to look for its scattered fragments, a portion of his pension 
was continued to his widow ; and having in her seventieth 
year put her little income into Dan's pocket, she went to 
live with him. Dan was her youngest child, but the only 
one left to her. He was five-and-thirty, but she still called 
him her boy. He was married, and so old Nan came back 
from the pensioner's graveside to Dan's place, and set to 
work to make herself as little a burden as possible. 

It was all well enough at first, till Dan got mixed up with 
bad company. He was deceived, fooled, and made a dupe 
of. Old Nan will go to her grave believing that. But 
appearances were against him. The cruel gentleman in the 
white wig made it look so black that the jury, who didn't 
know Dan as his mother did, said he was guilty, and the 
judge gave him two years as easy and pleasant like as if 
he'd been giving him a month's holiday to go to the seaside 
for the benefit of his health. 

He was such a nice, good-tempered judge, and smiled so 
sweetly to show a set of white teeth, that Nan could hardly 
believe he was hurting her boy till it was all over. But 
when her son looked towards her with his ashen face, and 
cried, " Mother, take care of Louie and the little ones," her 
heart nearly stopped still, and she stood up in the back of 
the court and called across to him to be of good heart for 



A WAR MEDAL. 247 

while her old hands could work his dear ones should not 
starve. 

Then he went down the well from the dock out of sight, 
and Nanny tottered home to be husband and father 
and mother to a sick and helpless woman and three little 
children. 

To be all that, and the bread-winner too, long after the 
threescore years and ten of life had passed over her head ! 

She had roughed it years ago as a soldier's wife, and had 
accompanied her husband's regiment many a time. She 
had grown hardy in the old days, and now her early training 
stood her in good stead. Louie, Dan's wife, was too ill to 
work. She was feeble and ailing before the great trouble 
came. After the trial she was prostrate. She lay like a 
tired child whose heart is wrung with grief, and made no 
effort. She had clung to her husband, who had put his 
strong arms about her and kept her alive with love and 
gentle care. 

Now that he was taken from her she drooped swiftly as 
the flower languishes where no sun comes. 

Then it was that old Nanny Nettleship came and took her 
place at the head of the little family. She nursed and 
cheered the sickly wife, she loved and tended the children 
She eked out her little pension among them, and went forth 
to earn their bread. She went early mornings to the 
markets, and bought and sold again. By sheer hard work she 
built up a little connection in outlying suburbs, where she 
could sell fruit and flowers and vegetables, and when her 
load grew heavier than she could bear in consequence of the 
increase of custom, she managed to get a meek little brown 
donkey who drew her barrow 

Winter and summer she was up in the early mornings to 



2 4 S THREE BRASS BALLS. 



buy at the market, and all winds and weathers she was in 
the streets through the long day to sell her goods and earn 
food and shelter for Dan's wife and children. 

It was no easy task then to make both ends meet, for the 
wife wanted many things that cost money, and Nan never 
let the children go ragged or scantily clad. 

So the two years drifted slowly by. The children grew 
apace, but the wife drooped and drooped in spite of all 
Nan's care, till at last the old woman feared her son would 
be a free man only to find his children motherless. 

But as the time drew near for her husband's release, 
Mrs. Nettleship revived a little. The hope of seeing his 
beloved face seemed to give her strength to live on. 

" I shall see him before I go, mother," she would say to 
the old lady, " and then I shall die happy." 

The day of Dan Nettleship's release has come at last. 
Over in the little room in Southwark the sick wife lies, her 
thin hands clasped together, the fierce light of consumption 
in her eyes, listening with eager ears for the first sound of 
his footsteps. 

The younger children are awed into quietness, for granny 
has told them that daddy is coming home to-day. They 
hardly know him. They were such mites when the trouble 
came, that they could understand nothing of it, and now 
they half dread the advent of this stranger who is their 
"daddy." 

Outside the prison gate stand the old woman and little 
Louie, and presently he for whom they are waiting so 
eagerly comes through the door. 

The sun is shining brightly, and people are passing by, 
but as the eyes of the man and the old woman meet every- 
thing fades from their sight. 



A WAR MEDAL. 249 



" My boy, my boy !" she cries, and presently her old 
arms are about his neck, and tears of joy are coursing down 
her wrinkled cheeks. 

Dan Nettleship kisses his old mother reverently yet half 
fearfully. It seems to him that the prison taint is on him, 
and that his lips pollute those of the honest old soldier's 
wife who bore him and whom he has disgraced. Then he 
looks half shyly at his little girl, as though he expected to 
see her shrink away from him. 

But Louie slips her little hand in his and looks up to him 
with her lips pouted for a kiss. He picks her up in his 
arms, and gives her, not one, but a dozen. 

He puts her down, and presently she pulls him by the 
coat as they walk along. 

" Daddy ! " 

"Yes." 

" Mammy's waiting for you at home. Mammy longs to 
see you so, and she's so glad you're coming home to- 
day." 

"God bless my poor Loo!" said Dan. " How is she, 
mother?" 

Nanny Nettleship told her son quietly all she had to tell. 
It was no use deceiving him. Loo was sick unto death. 

" She's only lived to see you, Dan, my poor boy," she 
said. 

Dan questioned his mother eagerly. Little by little he 
won from her the whole story of the two years. His face 
was very white as he learnt all, and thought of the torture 
his dear ones had gone through, and all his brave old 
mother had done when he was paying the penalty of his 

crime. 

There and then, in justification, half to himself, half 



250 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

to his mother, he went over the whole ground, showing 
that, though technically he was guilty, morally he was 
innocent. 

" It was that barrister that prosecuted who settled me," 
he said. " He put it so straight, I should have found 
myself guilty if I'd been on the jury." 

They had quickened their pace as they talked, and so 
they went along, the old woman holding her son's arm and 
little Louie his hand. 

They had quickened their pace because Dan was terribly 
anxious to see his wife. In his prison, night after night, 
through the weary months, in fancy he had pictured this 
day, and now it had come. 

He should clasp his poor darling to his breast once more, 
and in his strong arms she should breathe what remained 
to her of life quietly away. But she would not die. She 
had grieved over him. That was it. Once by his side 
again she would mend. He was very hopeful, was Dan, 
and when they passed a square with some weak, sooty trees 
in it, and heard a bird chanting a cockney carol to as much 
sun as could see above the chimney-pots, the man, excited 
with his new freedom, whistled the first bars of " Cheer, 
Boys, Cheer," and without thinking, left go of his mother 
and his child, and began to run as if he were in a hurry to 
get home. 

It was an old habit of his, this breaking into a run when 
he was excited or thinking. But just as he began to run a 
crowd turned round the corner, in hot pursuit of someone, 
and the cry of " Stop thief ! " rang from a score of 
lips. 

A minute before a man had brushed past him, 
running too. Before he could think, the crowd was 



A WAR MEDAL. 251 



rushing by There was a policeman among them joining 
in the chase. He stopped for a moment and looked 
at Dan. 

Whether it was the knowledge that he had just come out 
of prison, or a sudden revulsion of feeling at the sight of the 
uniform he had such cause to remember, Dan didn't know, 
but he began to tremble. 

The policeman took hold of his arm. Nanny and little 
Louie had come to Dan's side, and both wondered 
what the policeman was doing. He showed them in a 
moment. 

Twisting Dan's arm with a professional jerk, he thrust 
his hand into the side pocket of the pilot-coat he wore, 
and drew forth a purse. 

The crowd had stopped too, and gathered round. Among 
them was a young lady, very hot and flushed and out of 
breath. 

" Is that your purse, miss ? " said the policeman, holding 
Dan firmly 

"Yes," said the young lady, "that's it; but he's not the 
man who took it." 

" No, miss ; but he'll do as well. It's been passed to him 
by his pal. That's what they does mostly always. You'd 
better come to the police-station now." 

With that he seized Dan roughly, and forced him along. 

White as a ghost, dumbfoundered and trembling, Dan 
attempted to explain that he was innocent — that the purse 
must have been put in his pocket. 

Moaning and wringing her hands, old Nanny Nettle- 
ship stood at the edge of the crowd with the trembling 
Louie clutching at her gown and asking what daddy had 
done now. 



252 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

And at home, waiting with a yearning heart, and count- 
ing the minutes as they went by, lay Dan Nettleship's dying 
wife. 

He thought of her and of the agony she would endure 
when the time went by and he did not come, and the 
thought maddened him. He would not be taken away 
now almost at the threshold of his home — now, when after 
two weary years he was about to see his poor darling once 
more. 

He tore himself from the policeman's grasp with a 
desperate effort. Then the man seized him by the throat, 
and they fought. Dan was a powerful fellow, and he was 
mad. He rained blows upon his assailant till the man's face 
was disfigured and bloody. 

Still he held on. 

Then the crowd closed in and fought too. Help came, 
and Dan was overpowered. Foaming at the mouth, and 
mad with rage and despair, he was dragged along by brute 
force, the knuckles of the stalwart constable being forced 
into his throat and making him black in the face. 

And home to the dying woman went the old mother and 
the little child to tell their pitiful tale, and dash the cup of 
joy from her lips just as it touched them. 

***** 

Dan Nettleship was taken before a magistrate, and com- 
mitted for trial at the Middlesex Session? for being con- 
cerned in the theft of a lady's purse, and for assaulting the 
constable. 

His old mother came to see him in his cell, and brought 
him news of his wife. The shock had nearly killed her, but 
the old woman had saved her. She had talked to her, and 
convinced her that at his trial Dan wouldbe found innocent 



A WAR MEDAL. 253 

that it was only a few weeks longer to wait, and then all 
would be well. 

She had told the wife nothing of how, excited and 
desperate, Dan had fought the constable, for on that point 
the old lady herself had grave misgivings. Little Louie had 
obeyed her grandmother, and held her tongue, but she her- 
self was quite convinced that the teacher's prophecy was 
coming true, and that daddy was now on his way to the 
awful place. 

The old lady saw her son in prison, and comforted him 
with brave, hopeful words. She promised him she would 
move heaven and earth to clear him and set him free, and 
he had the same solemn faith in her that all had who came 
to know old Nanny. 

The famous barrister who had secured his former con- 
viction was to her mind a tower of strength. If she could 
get him to defend her boy she felt he was saved. 

She would get him, cost what it might. 

She saw the solicitor, and told him she wanted the 
famous counsel to defend her son. He told her it would 
cost too much. 

" How much ? " asked Nanny. 

The solicitor told her. 

It was a great deal of money for a poor old woman to 
raise, but Nan went away and raised it. She brought the 
gold and gave it to the solicitor, who promised to retain 

the great man. 

Nanny raised that money by parting with all she 
treasured now in the world, by parting with her donkey 
and drawing her heavy barrow herself ; and when that was 
not sufficient she pawned the medals which her husband 
had won at the cost of his limbs, and which his dying hand 



254 THREE BRASS BALLS. 

had pressed into hers, bidding her treasure them and his 
memory together as long as she lived.* 

The day of the trial came, and Nanny took her place in 
court and waited, confident in the result now the famous 
barrister had Dan's case in hand. 

Dan, in due course, came up, pale and ill, and took his 
place in the dock, and the counsel for the prosecution 
opened the case. 

Nanny glanced eagerly at the counsel's box ; the great 
man was not there. 

Dan had noticed it too. 

" I beg your pardon, your lordship," he said, " but Mr. 
is going to defend me, and he is not here." 

Up started a blushing youth in a wig. 

" Beg pa'don, my lud ; I defend prisoner. Mr. is 

engaged elsewhere, my lud." 

The great counsel had handed over his brief to a junior. 
It is quite the usual thing. A poor prisoner retains a clever 
man at an enormous sacrifice. The clever man pockets the 
fee his name secures, and hands the poor wretch over to a 
'prentice hand as a matter of course. 

Old Nanny would have got up there and then and made 
a speech, but Dan looked at her and motioned her to be 
quiet. 

It was his luck. Everything was against him. 

The prosecution told its tale, and piled up the chain of 
facts. The young counsel blushed, made small jokes, and 
damaged his client unintentionally at about every second 
question he asked. 

Here was a man who had just come out of prison — a gaol 

* A pawnbroker receives war medals at the risk of his licence, but never- 
theless they are frequently pledged. 



A WAR MEDAL. 255 



bird, the prosecution called him — found running away with 
a purse in his pocket, and when arrested he fights the 
policeman. Such facts going to a jury, what can the 
verdict be ? 

Dan writes a little note, and it is given to his counsel. 

The counsel reads it before he calls witnesses for the 
defence. 

" Call Mrs. Nettleship," he says, putting the note down 
and old Nanny gets into the box. 

The young counsel asks her one or two questions, and 
then says, "Tell us what happened," and leaves her to it. 
It was the best thing he could have done. 

The old woman, with her white hair and weeping eyes, 
pours forth her tale with the eloquence of truth and despair. 
She tells all the story of the long struggle while Dan was in 
prison, and of how, just as he came out, and was nearing 
home to see his dying wife, he was made the victim of a 
mistake, and how, in his despair at being dragged away 
when his wife's life depended on his presence, he struggled 
and fought to get free. 

Old Nanny tells her story with such pathetic force that 
she is not interrupted. She interests the judge and the 
jury too, and looks of pity are cast to the dock, where Dan 
has broken down at the mention of his wife's name, and 
stands, the tears trickling down his cheeks. 

The judge sums up dead in Dan's favour. He suggests 
that the man first pursued put the purse in Dan's open 
pocket instead of flinging it away, as less likely to be 
noticed. The jury clutch at the straw, and find him inno- 
cent of the theft. Of the assault they find him guilty, but 
strongly recommend him to mercy. 

" Prisoner," says the judge, "we have heard the story of 



~,6 THREE BRASS BALLS. 



"3 



your misfortunes from your mother, and we believe it. We 
are bound to protect the police in the execution of their 
duty, but in this instance it is possible you were an innocent 
man made desperate by your peculiar position. You are 
discharged on your own recognisances to come up when 
called upon." 

And finally, when Dan Nettleship went out of the court 
with his brave old mother leaning on his arm, one ad- 
venturous wight clapped his hands and cried " Bravo ! " 
whereupon the usher sternly shouted " Silence ! " 

Home as fast as their feet could carry them went mother 
and son, and that evening the dying woman lifted her eyes 
to her long absent husband's face, and whispered that she 
could die happy now. 

That night she slept her last sleep in his arms. The 
morning sun found her lying with her head pillowed upon 
his breast, her lips parted in a sweet smile, her arm about 
his neck, and her heart still for ever. 

Old Nanny Nettleship sits in her easy chair now and does 
no work, for Dan has taken his old place. There were 
those who heard his story at the court-house who held out 
a helping hand to him, and to-day he is an honest trades- 
man, and prospers. 

And in his little home the old lady takes the place of 
honour. It was she who brought him home to receive his 
wife's last kiss ; it was she who saved him at the trial when 
the counsel she had sacrificed so much to procure left him 
to his fate. 

The war medals are in granny's keeping once more, and 
they will pass to Dan and to his children when the old 
soldier's widow lays down the burden of her years. They 



A WAR MEDAL. 257 

are hallowed now not only with the valour of him who won 
them, but with the tender love and brave endurance of her 
who pawned them once to pay 2. counsel who took her fee 
and left her to do his work. 

Perhaps, after all, he would not have done it nearly so 
well. 

* * * * 

Three brass balls in half relief on the big outside door- 
plate of the pawnbroker's shop. 

Three brass balls ! Weird and woful are the stories they 
could tell of the ruined and broken-hearted, of the wanton 
and the reckless, the wicked and the cruel, that creep past 
them into the gloom beyond. It is the voice they lack 
which here has spoken ; they are the stories hidden away 
in their brazen breasts which here have been told. 



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